FDA Cracks Down on E-Cigs and Hookahs

Restrictions on e-cigarettes, hookahs, and other tobacco products are about to get a lot tighter. The FDA is going to regulate them just like cigarettes, prohibiting their sale to minors.

Restrictions on e-cigarettes, hookahs, and other tobacco products are about to get a lot tighter.

Products will carry warnings similar to those on cigarettes, and retailers will not be allowed to sell them to anyone under 18.

The US Food and Drug Administration has asserted its right to regulate all tobacco products—including “any software or assembly of materials intended or reasonably expected to alter or affect the tobacco product’s performance, composition, constituents or characteristics; or to be used with or for the human consumption of a tobacco product.”

Under that interpretation of the Tobacco Control Act, the FDA says it can regulate e-cigarettes and hookahs.

The new rule will be published in the Federal Register May 10 and will take effect 90 days later on August 8, 2016.

The change also means that makers of e-cigarettes will have to provide the FDA with ingredient lists, will have to register their businesses, and will have to subject their advertising claims for review.

These companies will not be allowed to market some versions of their products as being “light, low, or mild” unless they have specific permission from the FDA.

Medical organizations have long called for the restrictions and US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said the rule is step toward preventing avoidable deaths and nicotine addiction.

"As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap,” Burwell said in announcing the rules on Thursday. “All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction."

The US market for e-cigarettes has been estimated at $2.5 billion, but sales have been dropping, reportedly because users found the devices were not as satisfying smoking as regular cigarettes.

The manufacturers have been criticized for manufacturing them in flavors that appeal to teenagers and stressing those flavors in their marketing.

A study of California high school students last year found that 14-year-olds who tried e-cigarettes were more likely to switch to tobacco within a year.

E-cigarette use has also been reported as rising among middle-schoolers.

Other studies have found there is a widespread, inaccurate belief that tobacco smoked through a hookah is safe.

The full 500-page FDA regulation is here.