E-Cigarette Regulation Deadline Nears
FDA agenda suggests marketing, sales limitations likely this month
WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is set to decide this month whether to lump electronic cigarettes in with conventional smokes as part of its oversight of the $90-billion U.S. tobacco market. Such a step would set the stage for greater restrictions on production, advertising, flavorings and online sales, according to a Bloomberg report.
With at least 40 U.S. states seeking stricter rules and federal health officials raising the alarm about e-cigarette use by children, manufacturers of the smokeless devices are preparing for an FDA crackdown.
“We do anticipate becoming a regulated industry, so it is very possible the way in which we advertise will change,” Andries Verleur, co-founder of e-cigarette maker VMR Products, told Bloomberg.
E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into an inhaled vapor without the tar of normal cigarettes. For the moment, marketers operate with few, if any, of the regulatory limits that apply to tobacco companies such as Philip Morris USA and Reynolds American Inc. TV advertisements by tobacco companies were banned in 1971, and in 2010 the FDA eliminated cigarette sampling.
With the FDA seeking to expand its regulatory authority beyond conventional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, some e-cigarette companies are opening up the marketing spigot while they still have a chance, according to the report.
Victory Electronic Cigarettes Corp. (ECIG), run by the same marketing executive who helped build InBev NV into a dominant brewer, is handing out 1 million e-cigarettes starting this month at events in 50 U.S. cities.
Logic Technology Inc., which makes up 17% of industry sales, plans a push in Manhattan bars and nightclubs this year or early 2014.
“You go where adult smokers are,” said Miguel Martin, president of Livingston, N.J.-based Logic.
The industry says e-cigarettes are a healthier, cleaner alternative to traditional smoking. Some disagree. At least 40 U.S. state attorneys general on Sept. 24 urged the FDA to immediately regulate the sale and advertising of electronic cigarettes in a letter that said the products are appealing to youth and no one is “ensuring the safety of the ingredients.”
The FDA has oversight over the cigarette market under a 2009 law that gives it sway over manufacturing, marketing and other tobacco industry practices. The law permits the FDA to determine whether it will extend its reach to related products.
In a government catalog of upcoming federal regulatory actions, called the Unified Agenda, the FDA lists October 2013 as the deadline for issuing a notice for proposing such rules.