The regulations will be a step in a long process that many believe will ultimately end up being challenged in court.
WHAT ABOUT MARKETING?
There are a few limitations on marketing. Companies can’t tout e-cigarettes as stop-smoking aids, unless they want to be regulated by the FDA under stricter rules for drug-delivery devices. But many are sold as “cigarette alternatives.”
The FDA’s proposals could curb advertising on TV, radio and billboards, ban sponsorship of concerts and sporting events, and prohibit branded items such as shirts and hats. The agency also could limit sales over the Internet and require retailers to move e-cigarettes behind the counter.
WHAT DOES THE INDUSTRY THINK?
The industry expects regulations, but hopes they won’t force products off shelves and will keep the business viable.
E-cigarette makers especially want the FDA to allow them to continue marketing and catering to adult smokers — some of whom want flavors other than tobacco. They believe e-cigarettes present an opportunity to offer smokers an alternative and, as NJOY Inc. CEO Craig Weiss says, make cigarettes obsolete.
“FDA can’t just say no to electronic cigarettes anymore. I think they also understand it’s the lesser of the two evils,” said James Xu, owner of several Avail Vapor shops, whose wooden shelves are lined with vials of liquid nicotine flavor, such as Gold Rush, Cowboy Cut and Forbidden Fruit.
WHAT DO PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS THINK?
Some believe lightly regulating electronic cigarettes might actually be better for public health overall, if smokers switch and e-cigarettes really are safer. Others are raising alarms about the hazards of the products and a litany of questions about whether e-cigarettes will keep smokers addicted or encourage others to start using e-cigarettes, and even eventually tobacco products.
“This is a very complicated issue and we must be quite careful how we proceed,” said David Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the American Legacy Foundation, in a recent panel discussion. “I call this sort of the Goldilocks approach. The regulation must be just right. The porridge can’t be too hot, and it can’t be too cold.”