Toothless Regulators Losing Control of Electronic Cigarette Market?

We only need to look at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to see an influential public body which took nearly 3 years to conclude a two-year review of the electronic cigarette industry. The situation is strikingly similar in Europe where the political agenda seems to have overtaken the practical agenda with money effectively at the heart of everything. As a consequence, many are now asking whether regulators are losing control of the electronic cigarette market?

This may seem a bizarre statement when you bear in mind the FDA has announced plans to introduce draconian and expensive measures for the future. Indeed having taken nearly three years to come to a conclusion about proposed regulations, the FDA has now extended the consultation period leading to yet more confusion and perhaps more worryingly, another information vacuum.

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State authorities taking control

In the midst of the FDA’s consideration of further regulations it seems that state authorities and indeed public bodies and individual companies are now introducing their own “electronic cigarette regulations”. A number of US states have attempted to push through bans on electronic cigarettes in public places, even looking to bar the sale of eliquids as well as openly discussing the potential introduction of an electronic cigarette tax. In simple terms, while the FDA is obviously the leading regulator in the US, many state authorities and companies are now jumping the gun and introducing their own take on the future.

The situation in the USA is slightly more complicated because of regulations at the federal level and the ability to introduce state wide laws and regulations. Time and time again we have seen surveys and research note suggesting electronic cigarettes are far less harmful than their tobacco counterparts. Indeed many believe this is the best ever opportunity to tackle the ongoing problem of tobacco addiction which has overshadowed many people for many years. There is also the issue of tobacco bonds which are now creaking at their foundations with a decline in tobacco cigarette sales much higher than many had expected when the bonds were introduced in 1998.

Is the FDA now a toothless regulator?

The situation regarding the FDA is shrouded in yet more mystery when you bear in mind that weekend press reports seem to suggest that the Obama government had a hand in watering down some of the proposed regulations. This highly political and highly embarrassing leak suggests that the FDA is not the power it once was, especially with regards to the electronic cigarette market. When you also take into account the fact the FDA attempted an ill-advised and ultimately unsuccessful ban on electronic cigarettes just a few years ago, is this really the body which should be regulating a growing industry?

The bottom line is that the FDA has the power to introduce regulations across the US although individual states also have the power to introduce their own particular “tweaks”. It will certainly be interesting to see how the situation emerges in the coming weeks and months because there seems to be reluctance from state authorities, and indeed public bodies and some companies, to await final recommendations from the FDA.

Conclusion

Whether or not it is a little harsh to suggest that the FDA is now a toothless regulator is debatable but the fact remains it has dithered over the electronic cigarette industry for far too long. As a consequence, the information vacuum and regulatory vacuum created has allowed many states, public bodies and large corporates to effectively introduce their own electronic cigarette regulations today. Many people believe that ultimately we will see the introduction of an electronic cigarette tax and the potential reclassification of electronic cigarettes under tobacco regulations also opens yet another can of worms. Could electronic cigarette sales ultimately come under the 1998 compensation agreement between 46 US states and large tobacco companies in the US?

 

Mark Benson

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Mark Benson is a contributing author for Spinfuel eMagazine. His continuing columns will bring a levelheaded approach to the dynamics involved in realizing a positive future for the e-cigarette industry. For more information on OK Eliquids and other products available please visit the OKCigs website.

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