Youth e-cigarette data prompts new calls to speed regulation

Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:43pm EDT
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By Toni Clarke

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Public health advocates are stepping up pressure on the U.S. government to quickly regulate and restrict access to e-cigarettes after new data showed use of the products tripled among high school and middle school children last year.

The figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday raised concern among health officials who fear e-cigarettes will create a new generation of nicotine addicts who may eventually smoke conventional cigarettes.

Cigarette smoking fell more than 25 percent over the same period. E-cigarette proponents said the data could indicate e-cigarettes are diverting young people away from conventional cigarettes, a view rejected by tobacco control advocates. [ID: nL2N0XD1UH]

The Food and Drug Administration regulates cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco. It proposed extending its authority to e-cigarettes and hookah, among other products, nearly a year ago.

FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said on Friday the agency is "moving forward expeditiously to finalize the rule." Its goal is to release it in June.   

But the potential for delay is considerable. The agency received more than 135,000 public comments on the proposal and by law must review them all.

The rule must also be reviewed by the Department of Health and Human Services and then by the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which analyzes the potential economic consequences of proposed regulations.

"This puts real pressure on every level of the administration to get this done," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, referring to the CDC data. "It means business as usual won't solve this rapidly growing public health problem."   Continued...

A man uses an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, slightly longer than a normal cigarette, in this illustration picture taken in Paris, March 5, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann