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E-cigarettes get tight regulation under new FDA rule

Katherine Ranzenberger

We get it. You vape.

But for those under 18, it'll be harder to get access to e-cigarettes and other "vaping" devices after a new federal rule issued Thursday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would have to approve all tobacco products not currently regulated, according to the new rule. The previously unregulated e-cigarette and vaping industry would face new, stringent regulations similar to the tobacco industry.

The rule also prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

However, Meghan Little, co-owner of The Eternal Vaper in York, said this wouldn't affect how her business has run for the last three years at 57 S. George St.

"We didn't sell to minors before these regulations anyway," Little said. "I'm glad they finally went through with it. It keeps it out of the hands of kids."

Hundreds of electronic cigarette brands will have to undergo federal review to stay on the market under new rules that have the potential to upend a multi-billion dollar industry attempting to position itself as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

New rules: The FDA released long-awaited rules that bring the burgeoning industry under federal oversight.

The changes will also require new health warnings. In a shift vigorously opposed by some in the industry, manufacturers must seek federal permission to continue marketing all e-cigarettes launched since 2007, making up the vast majority of the market.

Troy Hartman Jr., 21 of York City, vapes at Victory Vaporz in the Manchester Crossings shopping center, Thursday, May 5, 2016. New FDA rules will ban the sale of vaping products to minors and U.S. Food and Drug Administration would have to approve all tobacco products not currently regulated.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Little said this was a positive step because vaping is supposed to be a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco products. The devices haven't been extensively studied, and there's no scientific consensus on any potential benefits or harms from "vaping," including whether it leads young people to become regular smokers.

"I'm glad they've decided to label the ingredients, too," Little said. "It helps educate people on what they're putting in their bodies. The companies we use do get their liquids tested anyway. We look for people that took that extra time."

Most companies will have to submit premarket applications that will undergo review to assess their impact on the "public health." Those that don't submit the required information or don't meet federal standards would have their products removed from the market.

The FDA action comes five years after the agency first announced its intent to regulate e-cigarettes and more than two years after it floated its initial proposal.

Support: Public health advocates applauded the news.

"Ending the tobacco epidemic is more urgent than ever and can only happen if the FDA acts aggressively and broadly to protect all Americans from all tobacco products," said Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association.

The new requirements are likely to set up a legal showdown with manufacturers, many of whom have warned that the costs of complying with FDA regulation could wipe out their industry.

Scott Shapiro, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said in a news release he was glad the FDA will regulate the industry that markets their products mostly to youth.

"The potential dangers of e-cigarettes have had members of the Pennsylvania Medical Society concerned for several years, and our organization has long believed they should be treated no differently than tobacco products," Shapiro said. "Vaping activists often portray e-cigarettes as less harmful than their tobacco cousins, using this as an excuse not to regulate."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.