Taking the next steps in regulating e-cigarettes [Commentary]

Howard County Times

Years of study have brought new, reasonable regulations from the Food and Drug Administration on the sales of electronic cigarettes and other "vaping" devices.

Under rules announced last week, the federal government will step up oversight of the industry and enforce strict guidelines on manufacturing, labeling, sales, marketing and distribution of the products.

Howard County was among the first jurisdictions in Maryland to ban vaping in public places last year, expanding earlier restrictions on use of tobacco products.

One laudable aim of the rules is to keep children and youths from smoking. Howard's health department, even before the FDA regulations were released, said it would increase its enforcement of e-cigarette sales, which have grown exponentially.

Consistent nationwide rules are a step in the right direction, preferable to a patchwork of state and local laws on ENDS – electronic nicotine delivery systems.

Researchers and health experts say much more study is needed on nicotine and other chemicals used in the flavored "juice" that is vaporized in e-cigarettes, which opponents believe can contain toxins.

Also unknown: Whether vaping is effective as an aid in smoking cessation.

What's clear is that nicotine can be highly addictive and that while the number of teens smoking tobacco is at the lowest rate since 1975, the use of e-cigarettes by minors has soared in the last five years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

For the most part, the owners and operators of vaping shops and parlors in the area have expected increased regulation and have been diligent in not serving minors. The burden of complying with new FDA rules – some shops might be deemed "manufacturers" and subject to detailed reporting and inspection regimens – could break smaller businesses.

Nevertheless, the approaches taken by the FDA and county government in restricting vaping have been sound.

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