FDA delays rules restricting electronic cigarettes, could endorse them as an aid to stop smoking

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“Electronic-cigarette makers won a major reprieve on Friday when the Food and Drug Administration delayed regulations that could have removed many of their products from the market and opened the door to endorsing e-cigarettes as a means to get smokers to quit,” Sheila Kaplan reports for The New York Times.

In an interview, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a physician, “sounded notably more open to e-cigarettes than many other federal public-health officials, who have opposed the devices as a gateway to nicotine addiction and eventually to the smoking of tobacco cigarettes,” Kaplan writes.

Though Gottlieb “said he was concerned about children’s use of e-cigarettes and would consider regulating flavors designed to appeal to them, he also noted the potential benefits to addicted cigarette smokers of products capable of delivering nicotine without having to burn tobacco.”

“The announcement thrilled the e-cigarette industry, which was facing a deadline of next year for makers to seek approval to sell any product that entered the market after Feb. 15, 2007,” Kaplan reports.

However, in a conference call with reporters, Gottlieb said encouraged e-cig makers who want to promote the product as a smoking-cessation aid to consult with the FDA about approval of such a pitch.

“We still have to figure out if they are a way to get people off combustible cigarettes. We don’t fully understand.” Researchers disagree on the issue, but one study found that teenagers who use e-cigs are more likely to become smokers, and teens are key targets for e-cig marketers.

Gottlieb’s announcement that he would delay e-cigarette rules was included in the rollout of his plan to reduce U.S. tobacco deaths, which total about 480,000 a year, including about 9,000 in Kentucky.

“That strategy will include steps to push makers of tobacco cigarettes to reduce the levels of nicotine in their products to make them less addictive,” Kaplan writes.

“Gottleib said the FDA will redouble its efforts to protect children from products that contain nicotine, including e-cigarettes, and will pursue regulations of flavored tobacco products designed to appeal to them,” Kaplan reports. “E-cigarettes come in many fruit and alcohol flavorings to appeal to ‘vapers’ of all ages, with names like Tutti Frutti and Cupcake.”

More teenagers use e-cigs than smoke tobacco, but a survey last year found that e-cig use among Kentucky high-school sophomores had declined.

From Kentucky Health News

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