US FDA to propose new rules to regulate e- cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration would propose new rules today extending for the first time its regulatory authority from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, popular nicotine delivery devices that had grown into a multi-billion-dollar business with virtually no federal oversight or protections for US consumers, The New York Times reports.

The regulations which would  impact, the tobacco industry and the nation's 42 million smokers, would also cover pipe tobacco and cigars, tobacco products that had long escaped the regulatory ambit and whose use had rapidly grown in recent years.

Under the new regulations the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco to Americans under 18 would be banned. It would also require that people buying them show photo identification to prove their age, measures already mandated in a number of states.

On finalisation, the regulations would establish oversight of what had been a market free-for-all of products, including vials of liquid nicotine of varying quality and dubious origin.

The move comes four years after Congress passed a major tobacco-control law in 2009 and according to federal officials and advocates, it would likely takne at least another year for the rules to take effect, and possibly significantly longer if affected companies sued to block them.

According to commentators while the proposal that would be issued today would not immediately mean changes for the popular devices, the move was aimed at finally taming the fast-growing e-cigarette industry.

According to the agency the proposal would set a foundation for regulating the products but the rules did not immediately ban the wide array of flavours of e-cigarettes, curb marketing in places like TV or set product standards.

CBS News quoted FDA commissioner, Dr Margaret Hamburg as saying any further rules would have to be grounded in its growing body of knowledge and understanding about the use of e-cigarettes and their potential health risks or public health benefits.

She added, by being able to regulate e-cigarettes, the FDA would get a lot more information about what was in them, how they were made and the agency was already studying e-cigarettes in terms of how they were being used and what were their implications for health.