A spending bill approved by a House subcommittee on Thursday would weaken proposed regulations for companies that sell e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced a bill to prevent the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring pre-market reviews of e-cigarettes already on the market, The Associated Press (AP) reports.
The FDA rule would require e-cigarettes marketed since February 2007 to undergo pre-market reviews retroactively once the final rule is approved. Manufacturers would have to submit applications within two years of the final rule, and then the FDA would ensure that the product is “appropriate for the protection of the public health.” If not, the agency could take an e-cigarette brand off the market. In addition to e-cigarettes, the FDA’s proposed rules and the House legislation would apply to tobacco products such as cigars, hookahs, nicotine gels, waterpipe tobacco and dissolvable tobacco products. The FDA already regulates cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco products, the AP reports.
Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, who sponsored the bill, said the provision is a technical change that would keep the newer products under FDA oversight but allow them to be regulated in the same way as older tobacco products. House Democrats charge the legislation could lead to unsafe products on the market. The legislation would not affect the provision to ban the sales of the products to minors and would still allow certain product standards. But public health groups say the legislation would hamper the FDA’s ability to prevent tobacco companies from marketing new products to children. Democrats expressed concern that the change would reduce regulation on the industry at the same time e-cigarette use is rapidly increasing and companies are trying to reach even more new users.
The proposed FDA rules—expected to be made final in the coming months—are intended to rein in the fast-growing e-cigarette industry. E-cigarettes heat a nicotine liquid instead of burning tobacco, creating a vapor inhaled by the user. The vapor looks like smoke but it does not contain tar or many of the chemicals produced by burning tobacco. E-cigarettes do not have the odor of burning tobacco. While some smokers use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking, there is not much scientific evidence about how they safe they actually are or how much they help smokers quit or smoke less, according to the AP. Some health experts see dangers in e-cigarettes. They introduce non-smokers, especially young people, to nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Nicotine liquid comes in a variety of fruit and candy flavors, with catchy names, that appeal to teens. Liquid nicotine can be fatal to small children. As little as a teaspoon can kill a small child, and, currently, the liquid does not have to be sold in childproof bottles or carry a warning label.
Michael Felberbaum, an FDA spokesman, said the “the rule will represent a significant first step in the agency’s ability to effectively regulate tobacco products and, as we learn more about these products, the agency will have additional opportunities over the long term to make a positive difference in the public health burden of tobacco use in this country,” according to the AP.