It’s been ten years since the FDA was given the mandate from Congress to fully regulate the tobacco industry and tasked with the critical responsibility of protecting the health of our nation. And still, the FDA has not fulfilled its mission to reduce the deadly toll of tobacco use.
FDA Deemed- Now What?
Last month's news that the FDA is proposing to regulate all tobacco products was long-awaited and very welcomed by public health advocates. There was lots of news coverage of the proposal's release, but what's next? When the proposed rule becomes final, the FDA for the first time will have the authority to regulate dissolveables, gels, hookah tobacco, electronic cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco. Manufacturers of these products will have to submit ingredient listings to the FDA, remove descriptors such as light and mild and other claims that imply a lower risk and cease the distribution of free samples. You might have also read in the news that the FDA proposal would also prohibit these tobacco products from being sold to people under age 18, ban them from most vending machines and require that warning statements appear on their packaging and advertisements. These are important regulations, and they are certainly a step in the right direction toward keeping these products out of the hands of kids. But we were disappointed to see that the FDA didn't propose a strong approach to manage flavorings added to these products that make them attractive to youth, or the egregious advertising we've been seeing. Now, we have an opportunity to express those concerns and any other thoughts during the official comment period for the proposal. One question the FDA posed that we intend to address is whether or not premium cigars should be regulated differently than other cigars. Our answer is they shouldn't. There is no such thing as a safe tobacco product meaning no tobacco product should be exempt from FDA regulation. We're calling on the FDA to expeditiously review all of the comments filed over the next couple of months and release its final rule within a year so the agency can move forward with addressing flavorings and advertising. We cannot afford any more delay given that youth are trying new products, such as little cigars and e-cigarettes, at increasing rates. A final regulation without administrative delays is crucial to saving lives, keeping kids from becoming addicted and ending the scourge of tobacco in our lifetime.