Cigarette regulations catching up to electronic cigarettes

FDA: E-cigarette brands must have federal permission to stay in business

Electronic cigarettes were free from the federal regulations regular cigarettes face until now.

Thursday the Food and Drug Administration released what proponents say are long-awaited rules bringing more oversight to the industry. E-cigarette brands will now have to get federal permission to stay in business.

There is concern among e-cigarette manufacturers, especially smaller ones who may not be able to afford the FDA’s approval process.

Some local health officials, shop owners and smokers say the FDA’s changes are a good thing.

The rules require health warnings on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products and prohibit their sale to minors in all states.

“This law really makes it more difficult for youth to have access to these products,” La Crosse County health educator Judi Zabel said. “I think that’s one of the beautiful things about this. It’s information for the public about what the impact and ingredients are in this, like we learned about cigarettes, but it also helps us prevent youth usage.”

The smoke shop over Deaf Ear Records has been there since 1999, and owner Jason Mills says over the past few years e-cigarettes have really taken off. He said he’s surprised it’s taken so long for these regulations to arrive.

“They just seem to make a lot of sense and they kind of go along with cigarettes with all that. From what I’ve seen, as far as this goes it’s more of a safety concern. So from what I’ve heard from other owners, I know they’ve expected it for a while,” he said. “(It’s) also a wise idea, I think, because we want to know what’s in your product and you want to make sure it’s safe.”

E-cigarettes aren’t as extensively researched as regular cigarettes, and proponents of the federal changes say they can help clear the air.

“Now we’re really going to be able to understand what’s in an e-cigarette. What does it emit, and how does that emission harm, maybe, people that are nearby?” Zabel said.

David Turkowitch, a La Crosse resident who enjoys e-cigarettes and vaping with his friends, welcomes the FDA’s changes.

“It’s good that they’re looking into it more, getting the research done, helping people be safe,” he said.