Tobacco Control, Public Health Advocates Laud FDA’s Final Rule on Tobacco Products
Reno, Nev. (May 10, 2016) – Nevada tobacco control and public health advocates praised the federal Food and Drug Administration’s finalization of a new rule that extends its authority over tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars, among other products.
“This is something we’ve been anxiously awaiting, ” said Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition President John Packham, Ph.D. Dr. Packham also serves as advocacy and policy chair for the Nevada Public Health Association and is its immediate past president and is a co-chair for the Nevada Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.
The final rule, which takes effect in 90 days, extends the FDA’s authority under the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. It allows the FDA to prevent misleading claims by manufacturers, evaluate ingredients and how tobacco products are made, and to communicate to the public the potential health risks of these products.
The new rule also prohibits selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco and cigars to persons under the age of 18 and requires age verification when selling those products. It also prohibits distributing free samples.
Tobacco control and public health advocates have long advocated that non-traditional tobacco products such as e-cigarettes be regulated by the FDA as other tobacco products currently are. E-cigarettes have been an unregulated free-for-all since they came on the market, a market that has grown dramatically and without consumer protections.
“E-cigarettes have been touted by manufacturers and retailers as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes and a tobacco cessation tool despite the lack of medical and scientific data to support those claims,” Packham added.
Despite the lack of supporting data and growing evidence to the contrary, e-cigarette retailers and manufacturers testified during the 2015 Nevada State Legislature that their products were “ninety-nine percent safe” for consumers, essentially free of the toxic chemicals found in combustible cigarettes. The aerosol produced by e-cigarettes, they noted, is just as harmless, regardless of its source, adding, “aerosol is aerosol.”
Tobacco use has contributed significantly to the prevalence and cost of chronic disease. Public health advocates adamantly believe those products identified under the FDA’s new rule, especially e-cigarettes, will have the same consequences health-wise and fiscally unless properly regulated.
Once implemented, the new rule will provide direction for the state to enact measures that bring Nevada’s laws in line with it. Specifically, new definitions in state law for vapor products and alternative nicotine products enacted during the 2015 legislative session will have to be revisited.
“The tobacco and e-cigarette industries put into law definitions that separate e-cigarettes from tobacco products,” said Michael Hackett, NTPC Policy Group Chair. “The FDA’s new rule will negate those definitions and allow the state to regulate e-cigarettes as it does all tobacco products with regard to public health, consumer protection and awareness, and taxation.”
Under the FDA’s final rule, products on the market prior to February of 2007 are not subject to the new regulations. It still faces Congressional hurdles that could limit its effectiveness.
“We’re hopeful Congress will allow the FDA to do what it should be able to do and let this rule take effect as is,” said Natalie Powell, MPH, NTPC Communications Committee Chair. “Allowing products such as e-cigarettes to continue to be unregulated ultimately comes at a cost to everyone, one that families and states won’t be able to afford.”