Unfortunately there’s bad news from India, where the government is considering total ban on vapour products following a catastrophic report from the ministry of health. A district council in New Zealand is also banning vaping in public places, while the Maine state legislature has rammed through the Tobacco 21 law vetoed by the governor last week.
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FDA changes course on harm reduction
In a surprise announcement last Friday morning, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a major shakeup to the agency’s policy on electronic cigarettes. This forms part of a new approach to tobacco control based on harm reduction instead of prohibition. While the main plank of the policy is a goal of reducing nicotine in cigarettes so much that they become non-addictive, it also contains some good news for vapers.
Gottlieb publicly acknowledged that nicotine products have a spectrum of risk, with cigarettes being the most dangerous. While his attitude to nicotine use still seems negative, he does accept that if people want to use it they should have safer options. To make those options available he’s ordered a rethink of some parts of the Deeming Regulations.
The biggest problem facing the US vaping industry was the November 2018 deadline for Pre Market Tobacco Authorizations; any product that hadn’t been registered with the FDA by then, at a cost of at least several hundred thousand dollars per product, would have come off the market. Gottlieb has now extended that deadline to August 2022. He’s also ruled that products can stay on the market while the FDA reviews their application, which can take up to a year.
It’s certainly not all good news. The extension only applies to existing products; any new ones will still need a PMTA before they can go on sale. There’s also no change to the controversial grandfather date of February 2007, which is one of the worst aspects of the whole law. Finally, Gottlieb said some worrying things about “youth-attracting” flavours, suggesting that the FDA might support the current wave of flavour bans being enacted in the USA. Overall, though, the new policy is positive for vapers.
India considers total e-cig ban
Vapers in India are facing a total ban on e-cigarettes following a shock report by a government committee. Several state governments have already cracked down harshly on the industry, mostly banning all sales, but this is the first move at the national level.
The government seems to have been pushed by a report issued be the health ministry which claims vapour products are carcinogenic, highly addictive and not safer than combustible tobacco. This is a startling set of conclusions, which don’t agree with any of the latest scientific evidence, but the Indian government seems happy to accept it.
It’s also being argued that the availability of e-cigs could weaken conventional tobacco control efforts. Again, this goes against all the recent evidence. India has particular problems with bidis, a local type of leaf-wrapped cigarette containing multiple toxic additives, and smoking-related disease is a major public health issue.
Now the health ministry is considering a complete ban of imports and sales of vapour products. Under Indian law there’s no way to do this under tobacco regulations, so the ministry is looking at using either the Drugs & Cosmetics Act or the Food Safety & Standards Regulation to prohibit them.
New Zealand district bans public vaping
The New Zealand government might have swung towards a much more positive position on vaping recently, but one district council has decided to swim against the tide. Whanganui, a city and district on North Island, has decided to ban vaping in public areas.
According to mayor Hamish McDouall, e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking among young people. Unfazed by the total lack of scientific evidence to support this claim, McDouall says that he personally knows young people who vaped then started smoking, so he’d decided there must be a connection. The availability of flavours also seems to have irritated him, according to a caustic editorial by think tank New Zealand Initiative.
Maine T21 veto overturned
Maine’s state legislature has over-ruled the governor to impose an increased purchasing age for e-cigarettes. Last week Governor Paul LePage vetoed the state’s Tobacco 21 bill, calling it “an attempt to social engineer our lives.” However, on Wednesday the state houses overwhelmingly voted to push through the law.
State senator Paul Davis, the originator of the law, says his intention isn’t social control – it’s to cut the number of young people who smoke. Maine has some of the highest teen smoking rates in the USA, with 11.2% of high school students smoking regularly. Davis believes that teens who ignore the current age limit of 18 will obey it if it’s raised to 21.