The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) has announced changes to  federal regulations and  redefined e-cigarettes as tobacco products, with powers to regulate other tobacco-related merchandise such as cigars and nicotine gels. The rules go into  effect in 90 days. The ruling:

  • Bans e-cigarette, hookah, pipe tobacco and cigar sales either on-line or face-to-face to minors
  • Require age proof by photo ID for purchase of these products
  • Require manufacturers of products to register with the FDA and submit their products for FDA approval, disclosing ingredients, safety and emissions data and manufacturing processes
  • Require companies to place health warnings on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products including warnings of the possibility of addiction and health effects of nicotine
  • Ban free samples of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products

The new regulations take effect in 3 months.

Not all the recommendations from advocates were included. The FDA did not include restrictions on the use of certain flavours in e-cigarettes, for example bubblegum , mango-tango, peppermint bark    and lemonade, which health advocates argue are aimed at children. There are studies to show that these flavours are very attractive to children. The ruling does not restrict marketing, the marketing strategies used to date mimics those used in the past to market regular cigarettes to young people  nor have tight restrictions for on-line purchasing for youth. There is also a lag time to achieve approval, during which the products can be sold to consumers, possibly up to three years.

The long term health effects of 'vaping' are unclear, though it does appear to be  safer than smoking. It you are a non-smoker or an ex-smoker considering taking up e-cigarettes, the health effects have not been well studied and the potential harm from long-term use unknown. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development , promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use.

The evidence as to whether e-cigarettes help people to quit smoking is also limited and the results are mixed. A systemic review by the Cochrane Library noted :"The small number of trials, low event rates and wide confidence intervals around the estimates mean that our confidence in the result is rated "low"

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