The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it will regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco.
Up to this point, the FDA has only regulated products related to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Other products that now will fall under the FDA’s purview include cigars and pipe tobacco.
The new rule grows out of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. In a press release, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says:
“Today’s announcement is an important step in the fight for a tobacco-free generation – it will help us catch up with changes in the marketplace, put into place rules that protect our kids and give adults information they need to make informed decisions.”
Prior to today’s announcement, no federal law prohibited retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18. For the first time, e-cigarette makers will now have to submit their products for safety review. According to an Associated Press report:
Before brands are allowed to stay in the market, regulators would have to check the ingredients, design and flavor of the fast-growing devices, which have found a foothold with teenagers.
The new rule also has several provisions intended to restrict youth access to such products. According to the FDA, they go into effect in 90 days and include:
- Not allowing products to be sold to persons under the age of 18 years (both in person and online).
- Requiring age verification by photo ID.
- Not allowing the selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility).
- Not allowing the distribution of free samples.
Smoking is the top source of preventable disease and death in the United States, causing 480,000 deaths per year, according to the FDA. The agency notes that while young people are smoking fewer cigarettes today, their use of other tobacco products is climbing.
Current e-cigarette use among high school students has soared from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015 — more than a 900 percent increase, according to a survey by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey also found that hookah use “has risen significantly,” according to the FDA.
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