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FDA correct to seek regulations on e-cigarettes

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Are government regulations on electronic cigarettes unnecessary measures that may hurt businesses or vital steps in promoting public health?

The Federal Drug Administration announced last week that it is seeking new mandates on the devices. The proposed rule “would extend the agency’s tobacco authority to cover additional products that meet the legal definition of a tobacco product, such as e-cigarettes,” according to information on the FDA’s website (www.fda.gov).

“The FDA’s proposal would require makers of e-cigarettes and nicotine fluids to obtain approval of products before selling them, ban sales to minors nationwide, require health warnings and more,” according to a story Tuesday in the Watertown Daily Times.

Some local merchants who sell e-cigarettes “remain wary that the proposal could be followed by more rules to threaten the emerging industry,” the story reported. “Merchants say they’re more worried about bills recently introduced in the state Legislature, however. The state could be tougher than the FDA, they say, by approving legislation that would tax e-cigarettes as tobacco products and ban smoking the devices in certain indoor and outdoor public areas.”

These concerns have some justification. Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City all have banned e-cigarettes in some public areas. State governments are likely to follow suit with regulations of their own.

Proponents say e-cigarettes contain fewer hazardous elements than cigarettes do. Therefore, the argument goes, they are a safer alternative for smokers.

However, critics claim that even small amounts of hazardous elements still pose a danger to people who use them. Governmental bodies are well within their right to set standards for how e-cigarettes can be marketed and sold, critics say.

The reality is that we don’t know where to draw the line about how to use e-cigarettes safely. Not enough research has been conducted to state definitively what dangers they pose under certain conditions.

So the FDA should treat the devices like any other tobacco product until conclusive evidence demonstrates otherwise. And no one likes increased taxes on their favorite products, but these are probably going to be imposed on e-cigarettes by state or local governments whether users like it or not.

The best way to avoid any potential health hazards and higher taxes when it comes to e-cigarettes is to stop smoking — anything! Do your lungs and heart a favor by finding a new habit, one that doesn’t involve tobacco.

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