New federal regulations on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products protect public, youth health

May 13, 2016

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new regulations that extend its authority to include new products that meet the definition of “tobacco products.” The new regulations now include the sales and health evaluation of e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah, among others. More information on the new regulations can be found in this article from the FDA: “Extending Authorities to All Tobacco Products, Including E-Cigarettes, Cigars, and Hookah”. These new regulations go into effect on August 8, 2016. There are several new FDA provisions that protect youth health by restricting youth access to tobacco products, including a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to youth under the age of 18 both in-person and online. Current Alaska law already restricts the sale of e-cigarettes to persons 19 and over, but availability of the products online had been unregulated. The news from the FDA comes on the heels of new data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth: No decline in overall youth tobacco use since 2011. According to recent data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 4.7 million middle and high school students were current users of a tobacco product in 2015, and 3 million were current users of electronic-cigarettes. This means that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, and use continues to climb. In Alaska, e-cigarette use is also higher among youth statewide (18 percent) than smoking traditional cigarettes (11 percent). Among Alaska Native youth, about 14 percent reported current e-cigarette use. These new data cause concern among health advocates because nicotine is a highly addictive substance and may have harmful effects on the developing adolescent brain. E-cigarette use also has the potential to lead youth to try other tobacco products such as hookah and smokeless tobacco. Although the advertisement of traditional cigarettes has been banded from television since 1971, e-cigarettes are currently unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are now heavily marketed on television and in other mainstream media channels. In Alaska, there are also no current laws regulating the advertising and marketing of these products. Marketing tactics by the e-cigarette industry often times mirror those of the tobacco companies. Tactics include using candy-flavored products; youth-resonant themes such as rebellion, glamour, and sex; celebrity endorsements; and sports and music sponsorships.  In the U.S., spending on advertising of e-cigarettes tripled each year from 2011 ($6 million) to 2013 ($82 million). Sales of e-cigarettes also increased dramatically over a similar period. With the new FDA regulations, e-cigarettes will be subject to FDA action for false or misleading claims. To help prevent the wide-spread use of e-cigarettes in Alaska and across our communities, the following strategies are recommended:
  1. Include e-cigarettes in current and new smokefree and tobacco-free workplace policies.
  2. Include messaging about the potential harms of e-cigarettes in tobacco prevention media.
  3. Health care providers should conduct a brief tobacco intervention with e-cigarette users (i.e. Ask about e-cig use, Advise to quit, and Refer to tobacco treatment services).
  4. Health care providers should screen adolescent patients for e-cigarette use.
  5. Health care providers should emphasize that e-cigarette use has not been thoroughly researched to know the short- or long-term effects. Moreover, users are at risk for developing an addiction to nicotine, which may put them at increased risk for using other tobacco products, which in some cases are less expensive than e-cigarettes.
For more information, contact the ANTHC Tobacco Prevention Program at (907) 729-4343 or by emailing: Information on the health risks of e-cigarette use is available for download from ANTHC: E-cigarettes: Not a healthy substitute.

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