In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to regulate e-cigarettes like it does regular tobacco products. Today, those changes go into effect. First, the new regulations make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes and other vaping supplies to anyone under the age of 18. As we reported when the FDA first revealed its plans, the age limit was already being enforced in some places, but now it's the rule nationwide. Retailers will be required to ask for identification from any customer who appears to be under the age of 27 and are prohibited from providing free samples to minors.
E-cigarette products will also have to go through an approval process before they can be sold. Before now, this wasn't a requirement. What's more, existing items that are already on shelves will also have to be approved if they went on sale after February 2007. Companies are allowed to continue selling products for two years while they prepare an application and an additional 12 months while the FDA reviews the paperwork. This also means that there won't be any new products available for the foreseeable future. Hand-rolled cigars as well as hookah and pipe tobacco are also included in the new regulations.
"The bad news is that August 8th of this year marks the beginning of a two-year countdown to FDA prohibition of 99.9 percent plus of vapor products on the market," American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley posted on the organization's website late last week. "If we do not succeed in changing the FDA's arbitrary predicate date of February 15, 2007, the vapor industry will shrink to almost nothing beginning August 8, 2018."
The FDA cites consumer protection at the reason for the new regulations as the debate over health concerns surrounding cigarettes rages on. It's also a way for the government to keep tabs on vaping products that are popular among teens. "This final rule is a foundational step that enables the FDA to regulate products young people were using at alarming rates, like e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah tobacco, that had gone largely unregulated," Mitch Zeller from the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, explained back in May.