The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is prepared to start regulating electronic cigarettes. But advocates say the proposal would be detrimental to consumers and businesses.
The FDA’s plan is to classify electronic cigarettes, a personal vaporizer that delivers nicotine as a tobacco product. This means merchants will be banned from touting the devices as a safer alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes.
“We as consumers will no longer be able to talk about, or the vendors will not be able to talk about how the product has changed our lives, because that is considered marketing by the FDA," says Aaron Frazier, Director of Utah Vapers Association, an advocacy organization backing e-cigarettes.
Frazier says he supports FDA regulations to ensure e-cigarettes are safe and sanitary, but this goes too far.
“So now what’s happening is these mom and pop businesses are going to have to spend over $3 million just to apply to remain in business for legislation that didn’t exist when they started their business," Frazier says.
Mitch Zeller is director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA. He says researchers still don't know if the devices are safe. But he says more people are using them as an alternative to smoking tobacco.
Zeller argues e-cigarettes that contain nicotine already meet the statutory definition of a tobacco product.
“The definition is actually very simple," Zeller says. "Is it made or derived from tobacco? And the nicotine in e-cigarettes is derived from tobacco. So it’s a little counterintuitive. There’s no tobacco in e-cigarettes, but that’s not what the definition requires.”
The FDA will decide whether or not to follow through with the proposal after a public comment period ends in July.