The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to finalize proposed regulations on e-cigarettes that it issued a year ago, prompting concern among health experts about the delay.
A coalition of 31 health and medical groups including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association recently wrote to President Obama urging the federal government to finalize the “long-overdue” regulation, Time magazine reports. The letter warns that cigar and e-cigarette brands are using marketing tactics that seem intended to appeal directly to young people. Many of the products come in a variety of fruit and candy flavors. According to the letter writers, “This process has already taken far too long. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to target our kids with a new generation of tobacco products.”The letter noted alarming results from the latest National Youth Tobacco Survey reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). E-cigarette use among middle school and high school students had tripled from 2013 to 2014 and hookah use had doubled. E-cigarette use among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, from approximately 660,000 students to 2 million, according to Time. Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, expressed concern about first-time users. “We don’t have the data that e-cigarettes are a gateway [to other tobacco products], so we just wait. It should not be like that.”
In a statement to Time, the FDA said it remains concerned about e-cigarette and hookah use among teenagers. But rulemaking is a complex process, and the FDA said it must review the more than 135,000 public comments it received about the proposed rule before it can move the make the rule final. “FDA is committed to moving forward expeditiously to finalize the rule that will extend its authority to additional tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and other currently unregulated tobacco products.”
Several states and some local governments have enacted their own regulations on e-cigarettes. Time reports that at least 42 states and one territory prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes or vaping products to minors, Time reports. The medical groups warned that “further delay” in enacting regulations “will only serve the interests of the tobacco companies, which have a long history of using product design and marketing tactics to attract children to harmful and addictive products.” Former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler, in a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, noted, “The cigarette industry has long understood that virtually all new tobacco users in the United States are children and that if it doesn’t hook them as kids, it probably never will.”
CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden warned about introducing a highly addictive substance like nicotine to a broad population of teenagers. He said research has shown that nicotine harms the developing brain, according to the New York Times.