The government shutdown in late September and early October likely delayed the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ruling on e-cigarette regulation, according to Consumer Reports.
The FDA was expected to propose rules on regulating e-cigarettes by October, but the agency has yet to do so. The agency did send a proposed rule in mid-October to the federal Office of Management and Budget, which will review the rule before it is available for public comment.
The FDA is expected to consider e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which will allow the agency to provide the same federal oversight that applies to cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigarette tobacco, and roll-your-own tobacco. E-cigarettes could be subjected to the same requirements for disclosure of ingredients, manufacturing quality and restrictions on sales to minors that apply to regular cigarettes.
It is not clear whether the FDA will restrict e-cigarette flavors, such as bubblegum and watermelon, which appeal to children. It is also not known whether the agency will restrict online sales of e-cigarettes and advertising of the products, and whether it will make a recommendation on whether they should be banned indoors.
E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular. Sales in the United States are projected to reach $1.5 billion this year, triple last year’s sales.
A number of states are making their own decisions about regulating e-cigarettes, as they await the FDA rules about the devices. Four states have included e-cigarettes in indoor smoking bans, and more are considering following suit. States are weighing questions including who should be able to use e-cigarettes, how they should be taxed, whether they should be subject to indoor smoking bans and whether they are tobacco products.
Utah, North Dakota, Arkansas and New Jersey, as well as the District of Columbia, already include e-cigarettes in indoor smoking bans. California, Connecticut and Massachusetts are considering similar legislation.
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