FDA Plans to Regulate E-Cigarettes as Tobacco Products, Not Drug-Delivery Devices

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will regulate smokeless electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, treating them the same as traditional cigarettes.

The FDA said it will not try to regulate e-cigarettes under stricter rules for drug-delivery devices, the Associated Press (AP) reports. E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine in the form of a vapor, which is inhaled by the user. They usually have a rechargeable, battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge with nicotine or other chemicals and a device called an atomizer that converts the contents of the cartridge into a vapor when heated.  E-cigarettes often are made to look like regular cigarettes.

The AP says that the FDA’s announcement, made in a letter to stakeholders, is considered a victory for makers and distributors of e-cigarettes. The devices’ makers say e-cigarettes allow people to smoke without being exposed to the more than 4,000 chemicals in regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes have been available in the United States since 2006 and are used by several million people worldwide, the article says.

Last year the FDA lost a court case after it tried to treat e-cigarettes as drug-delivery devices, which must satisfy stricter requirements than tobacco products, including clinical trials to prove they are safe and effective. FDA tests found that the liquid in some e-cigarettes contained toxins besides nicotine, as well as cancer-causing substances found in tobacco, the AP reported. Some public health experts say the level of the cancer-causing agents is similar to those found in nicotine replacement therapy, which contains nicotine extracted from tobacco.