WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The federal government on Thursday announced sweeping new rules for electronic cigarettes, tightening up their regulation. It’s a decision that’s upended a multi-billion dollar industry that has gone largely unregulated.
The Federal Drug Administration’s new rules will require e-cigarette manufacturers to put ingredients and warnings on packages, and requires a review of any e-cigarette product made since 2007.
The rules also ban selling e-cigarette products to anyone under the age of 18.
In Kansas, purchases of e-cigarettes already are banned to anyone under 18, but do not specifically require stores to check the ID of younger buyers.
KSN’s undercover investigation last year into local e-cigarette stores and convenience stores found some of them were not doing their part to ensure those under 18 weren’t getting their hands on e-cigarettes.
KSN spoke with employees at Big E’s Vapor Shop, and they say some of the regulations, like not selling to minors, is something they’re OK with since they already follow that rule. But, some more lengthy regulations have them worried about the future of their business.
Eldon SImmons has been co-owner of Big E’s Vapor Shop for three years. His business has five stores across Wichita that employ about 50 people. But news of the new FDA e-cigarette regulations leaves Simmons worried.
“You know, this is the way we make our money now and, you know, we employ about 50 people, so it could affect their livelihood,” Simmons said.
The rule that most concerns Simmons is a requirement that manufacturers seek federal permission to continue marketing all e-cigarettes launched since 2007, a process that could take the FDA a year or more.
“For us, we have over 500 flavors of juice, so each flavor of juice would have to go through the vetting process,” said Simmons.
And that, says Simmons, would cost a pretty penny.
“Only multi-billion dollar corporations are going to be able to afford to go through this vetting process to keep the products on the market,” Simmons said.
However, it’s that vetting process that some say is necessary.
“By requiring the manufacturers of electronic cigarettes to submit what is being consumed into someone’s body is the best way to make sure we’re keeping people and the population safe,” said Becky Tuttle of Tobacco Free Wichita.
Tuttle says they’re pleased by the FDA ruling, adding ti was greatly needed.
“This is going to allow the FDA some time to get reliable data, and then to be able to make decisions that are data driven based on what they find,” Tuttle said.
However, vape shop owners like Simmons feel it’s a solution to something that was never a problem in the first place.
“There was nothing wrong with it, but they want to throw in a bunch of regulations to fix something that isn’t broke,” Simmons said.
The long-awaited rules issued by the FDA will go into effect in 90 days. Predictably, the e-cigarette industry is planning to fight the rules.
There’s a grace period of up to two years for manufacturers to get their products reviewed by the FDA.
Meanwhile, the use of e-cigarettes has gone up dramatically in the last few years.
In 2014, there were almost 2.5 million middle and high school users in the U.S. In 2015, that number went up to 3 million students, and 16 percent of high school and 5.3 percent of middle school students were current e-cigarette users in 2015. That makes e-cigarettes the most commonly used tobacco product among youth for the second consecutive year.