After years of worry and doomsday conspiracy theories, the Federal & Drug Administration has just tossed a curveball into the tobacco industry, announcing plans to help support e-cigarettes and other ‘innovations’ that are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The move aims to reduce the number of deaths and preventable diseases that arise from smoking tobacco, as well as curbing the use of cigarettes among teens.
Critics of electronic cigarettes have expressed concerns that the nicotine liquid could be harmful to children, and likewise that these vaping devices may encourage smoking among teens who may otherwise be unable to acquire or unwilling to smoke foul-tasting tobacco cigarettes.
Proponents of e-cigarettes, however, have argued that vaping devices are a benefit to society due to their less harmful health side effects. While some ‘vape’ recreationally, others report using electronic cigarettes to successfully wean themselves off of nicotine and, eventually, off smoking altogether.
In a surprise announcement, the FDA has stated that in order to address the public health crisis that smoking poses, the agency will target nicotine as the core issue, and will in fact help support innovations that may help decrease cigarette consumption including e-cigarettes. In a statement, the FDA said that it ‘intends to develop product standards to protect against known public health risks such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) battery issues and concerns about children’s exposure to liquid nicotine.’
The agency goes on to explain that it understands that nicotine is delivered to people via ‘products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes.’ That is to say, the FDA is first and foremost targeting the tobacco cigarettes you buy in a carton versus things like electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery products.
The FDA has a plan to open a public dialog related to the goal of decreasing nicotine levels found in regular cigarettes, something that aims to reduce levels of addiction among users both established and new.
As well, the FDA says it will issue revised timelines that give companies more time to get their products approved under regulations passed last year…they now have until the year 2022 for electronic cigarettes. As well, the FDA acknowledges that manufacturers will keep marketing their products in the meantime, indicating that it doesn’t want these less-harmful cigarette alternatives pulled from shelves.
Finally, the FDA also hints that it will make the regulatory process easier and faster for manufacturers versus the long process anticipated from last year’s announcement. Talking about this, the agency said:
To complement these larger policy considerations, the FDA plans to issue foundational rules to make the product review process more efficient, predictable, and transparent for manufacturers, while upholding the agency’s public health mission.