Monday, 11 August 2014

When will the FDA confirm future electronic cigarette regulations?

Despite the fact that we are now more than six months over a two-year investigation into the electronic cigarette industry, there is still no definitive word when the FDA will introduce new regulations. Just a few weeks ago the administration announced a number of proposals which were very quickly put out to consultation (indeed the consultation period was extended) and we await further news of the future structure. At this moment in time it is unclear when the actual regulations themselves will be laid on the statute books but there could well be some hurdles to overcome.

It was interesting to see just last week that in excess of 20 US state attorney generals contacted the FDA demanding further restrictions and regulations on electronic cigarette sales. Indeed they also called for a ban on the 7000+ eliquid flavours now available despite the fact that these have proven to be very popular with former tobacco cigarette smokers who have switched to their electronic cigarette counterparts.

Could we be approaching the endgame?

Despite the fact that various state attorney generals have had many years to put forward their views on the industry, why have they chosen this time? There is some speculation that those operating in the political arena may have heard whisperings that the FDA is looking to soften its stance on the industry and could indeed water-down initial recommendations. This is all pure speculation but it does seem rather strange that the political elite in the US have decided to exert yet more political pressure on the FDA at this time.

The simple fact is that the industry has been under investigation for many years now, after initially been ignored by the authorities, and we will see a new long-term regulatory structure fairly shortly. There may be delays if court action is taken by various parties for and against the industry but in the US this is very much par for the course. The fact that the initial two-year review is now over, actual recommendations have been put forward and the consultation period is now coming to an end bodes well for the future.

Will the FDA take any notice?

The FDA is a body which has been under extreme pressure in years gone by due to its position at the head of the regulatory regime in the US. Indeed it is also worth noting that many countries around the world will follow the advice path of the FDA therefore it has the ability to not only impact the US electronic cigarette market but also various pockets of the worldwide industry. The administration has been under intense pressure with regards to electronic cigarettes due to the fact that progress has been so slow. Like so many powerful administrations and political bodies the FDA was slow in reacting to the growing electronic cigarette market and as such the regulatory structure is in a catch-up period.

The weeks and months ahead will slowly but surely plot the future path of the electronic cigarette industry and we await with anticipation the end result. Will we see a more balanced approach to that previously indicated by the authorities? Or will the political elite place sufficient pressure on the FDA to effectively place the electronic cigarette industry in the same position as its tobacco counterpart?

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