Wednesday, 11 February 2015

US states looking to ban or tax electronic cigarettes

The situation in the US electronic cigarette market is becoming critical as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) continues to debate and consider the regulatory structure of the future. Even though the FDA’s initial investigation period ended some time ago the Administration is apparently still in consultation with the industry. This has left an enormous information vacuum in the US which many state authorities are very keen to fill. The question in the minds of many US politicians seems to be, should we ban electronic cigarettes or just tax them?

Is this opportunism at its extreme?

It is ironic that many of the states in the US looking to either ban or tax electronic cigarettes have historically and continue to benefit from tobacco taxes. There is no doubt that the ongoing popularity of electronic cigarettes is eating into their tobacco tax income stream hence why many are trying to introduce an electronic cigarette tax. If the FDA had taken control of the situation, with the rise of electronic cigarettes grabbing headlines for a decade now, then we would not be in this situation today.

Even though we have to recognise that the FDA is under extreme pressure from all parties for and against electronic cigarettes this has dragged on for far too long. The fact that some politicians are looking to push through extremely strict regulations despite the fact they are not yet in possession of long-term health trial results is bizarre. On one hand politicians are there to protect the health of the public while on the other there is a requirement for freedom of choice.

What next in the US?

As state after state attempts to fill the void left by the FDA there is no doubt that confirmation of future regulations is required today. There is a chance that by the time the FDA does rule on future regulations for the industry many states will have already put in place their own local restrictions. Quite how these would operate side-by-side any FDA regulations is obviously a matter for debate because they could be on the statute books before the FDA reports. Whatever happens next in the US this has been something of a regulatory mess with politicians, regulators and the government to blame.

Despite the fact that many leading medical experts believe electronic cigarettes and vaping devices in general offer the best opportunity in our lifetime to combat tobacco cigarette addiction, no real progress has been made. Sceptics would suggest that it is "all about the money" although in reality politicians and regulators are in a very difficult situation. However, this does not make up for their lack of action and inability to come to a definitive recommendation.


It will be interesting to see how many US states are able to push through bans or taxation of electronic cigarettes in the short to medium term. The wider public is very much in favour of electronic cigarettes therefore many politicians would be putting future votes and potentially their careers on the line. Will the will of the people win the day or will politicians dictate the future?

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