May 5, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on tobacco products welcomed, but the FDA still has critical to-do list
By bringing all tobacco products under the agency’s jurisdiction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has, at long last, ended the Wild West of unregulated tobacco products with its “deeming regulation”. For too long cigars, hookah tobacco and e-cigarettes have proliferated without product standards, sales and consistent age limitations, or controls on claims about health effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now has the opportunity to regulate how tobacco products are made, marketed and sold, to make them less toxic and addictive and less appealing to prospective users of all ages. This is a huge opportunity, and a huge challenge for an agency that needs to actively enforce the new regulations and review a host of product applications while also contending with a parade of tobacco industry lawyers poised to file suit.
This is a beginning rather than an end to a critical phase for the FDA. While youth cigarette use has dropped, use of little cigars and hookah, as well as e-cigarettes, has kept overall youth tobacco use flat. The deeming rules essentially bring the same limits on traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to a fuller array of tobacco products: the ability to issue product standards for all regulated tobacco products to make them less toxic and addictive, and a nationwide standard making it illegal to sell any kind of tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah, to anyone under the age of 18, or to sell them in vending machines. In two years, all products will finally carry warnings making clear that the products contain nicotine, and nicotine is an addictive chemical.
The FDA has also indicated they will soon propose rules banning use of “characterizing flavors” in cigars. That’s a change that can’t happen soon enough: an estimated 70 percent of all current youth tobacco users report using a flavored product in the past 30 days.