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New landscape for e-cigarettes: Stanford tobacco expert weighs in on new FDA regulations

e-cigarettesFor the first time, electronic cigarettes will be federally regulated, according to new rules released by the Food and Drug Administration yesterday. The FDA deemed the change "a milestone in consumer protection."

Stanford's Robert Jackler, MD, an expert on the tobacco industry, called the move "an excellent first step in the right direction" in an email to me this afternoon:

They prohibit youth-targeted practices such as underage sales and distribution of free samples. The requirement for product labels warning of nicotine's addictive potential and disclosure of ingredients -- including known pulmonary toxicants such as diacetyl compounds used in flavoring and known to cause so-called "popcorn lung" -- is much needed.

But the FDA dragged its feet issuing the regulations, Jackler says. The agency first announced its plans to regulate the nicotine-laden products five years ago. During that period, e-cigarette use by teens "soared," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, 13 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes. In addition, the new rules still have some gaps, Jackler writes:

Many youth-targeted e-cigarette marketing practices have yet to be addressed. Examples of existing regulations which apply to traditional combustible cigarettes, but not yet e-cigarettes, include bans on youth-oriented flavors, television and radio advertising, sponsorships (such as sporting events, concerts), and celebrity endorsements...

Many public health advocates would also like to see a prohibition of internet sales for vapor products.

Jackler is calling for a second set of regulations that ensures e-cigarettes are treated like traditional tobacco products. He concludes: "Unless the FDA acts promptly to curtail teen appeal of e-cigarettes, another generation of America's youth will be at risk for e-cigarettes becoming their gateway to a lifetime of nicotine addiction."

Previously: Med School 101 class on e-cigarettes gives teens a crash course in critical thinking, The devil you know: Experts discuss the public-health consequences of e-cigarettes, With e-cigarettes, tobacco isn't the only danger and E-cigarettes and the FDA: A conversation with a tobacco-marketing researcher
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