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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

FDA’s vaping regulations long overdue

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s sweeping new regulations on vaping should restrict the use of electronic cigarettes, and that’s good news for public health.

Some retail outlets may not be able to comply, and that’s bad news for them. It was a risky business to begin with, but a slow-moving regulatory process allowed the vaping industry to expand.

The FDA announced the proposed rules two years ago, after which they went through a lengthy public comment period. So they shouldn’t be a surprise. E-cigarette stores that opened and expanded – and there have been a lot of them – were rolling the dice.

The FDA offered clarity on Thursday, just not the kind the industry wanted to hear.

For the first time, vaping devices and ingredients for each product will be subject to federal review before gaining marketing approval. The industry claims this could cost businesses up to $1 million per product. If so, expect a lot of small businesses to fold or be absorbed by bigger ones.

The FDA already regulates conventional and roll-your-own cigarettes, plus smokeless tobacco. Along with e-cigarettes, the new rules would cover various cigars and hookahs. Products created after February 2007 would be affected, meaning most e-cigarettes.

Products that pass muster would have to carry warning labels about possible health hazards, and they could not be sold to anyone under the age of 18.

Because the feds were so slow to move, many state and local governments had already passed regulations. The Washington Legislature passed a bill last session requiring warning labels and disclosure of nicotine content. It also banned vaping in places children gather, such as parks.

The Spokane Regional Health District recently voted to ban vaping in workplaces and public spaces by subjecting it to the same SIPP (smoking in public places) rules that cover cigarettes. Vaping is still allowed in e-cigarette stores as customers sample products and devices.

Vaping has been marketed as a way to kick the conventional cigarette habit, and there is some merit to that. But unless the new rules completely eliminate e-cigarettes, that tool remains available, along with other cessation strategies.

Of greater concern is the increasing number of young people who have been drawn to vaping. Current use among high school students tripled between 2013 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of them had never smoked before. Rather than kicking an old habit, they’re picking up a new one.

Some studies show that young people who use e-cigarettes are more apt to try conventional products.

For too long, e-cigarette businesses were allowed to spread without consistent regulations. The new rules are undoubtedly tough, but public health must be the priority.

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