FDA proposes regulation of electronic cigarettes

Bailey Williams, Assistant City Editor

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule Thursday that would allow the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.

The proposed rules come roughly six months after the Evanston City Council voted to prohibit e-cigarette use in most public spaces.

“Tobacco-related disease and death is one of the most critical public health challenges before the FDA,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a news release. “The proposed rule would give the FDA additional tools to protect the public health in today’s rapidly evolving tobacco marketplace, including the review of new tobacco products and their health-related claims.”

The FDA is responsible for public health and safety and regulates tobacco products.

If the proposed rule is implemented, companies that produce tobacco-related products like e-cigarettes would have to register their products, disclose the product ingredients and wait to market products until FDA review. In addition, companies would have to wait for the FDA to review any evidence before claiming their products reduce any risks.

Battery-operated e-cigarettes convert liquid containing nicotine into vapor for users to inhale. Little is known about the devices, according to the FDA’s website. Many aspects of e-cigarette usage, such as the amount of nicotine users inhale, have not been completely reviewed.

The Illinois General Assembly is currently considering legislation on e-cigarettes. State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) sponsored a bill concerning e-cigarettes that passed the state House with “an overwhelming majority” and is now in the Senate, Gabel said. The bill aims to require childproof caps on the e-liquid portion of e-cigarettes.

Gabel said a physician told her nicotine can have lethal effects and can impact an individual through his or her skin. The amount needed to impact a toddler is even smaller, Gabel said.

As e-cigarettes become more popular, “there will be more opportunities for accidents,” Gabel said, noting that the e-cigarette industry has in the past been an unregulated one. As a legislator, she felt she had to help regulate the industries that can impact children, she said.

“People should know that nicotine is a very potent drug,” Gabel said. “People need to use it wisely and carefully.”

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