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E-cig lobbyists working to head off new regulations

FDA is expected to issue proposed new regulations by Oct. 31

With new regulations looming, lobbyists for the electronic cigarette industry are heading to Capitol Hill, hoping to persuade lawmakers that the combustion-free devices shouldn’t be treated like tobacco products.

“While our industry understands reasonable and appropriate regulation is needed, it is vital our young industry not be grouped with combustible cigarettes as federal guidelines are developed for these products,” said Cynthia Cabrera, Executive Director of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA). “Excessive regulation could limit adult access to e-cigs and stifle growth and innovation in the segment.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set an Oct. 31 deadline to issue a proposed rule that would expand its oversight of e-cigs. In response, Cabrera’s group has summoned its members to Washington for a “day on the Hill” Nov. 4 and 5.

Trade associations for industries under pressure from the feds traditionally round up their members and bring them to D.C. to meet and greet lawmakers and their staffs, hoping to portray themselves as vital cogs in the economy and loyal supporters of their Congressional members.

Law being “misapplied”

Besides arguing the merits, if any, of e-cigs the group will be arguing that the law under which the FDA is issuing the new regulations — the 2009 Tobacco Control Act — doesn’t give it the authority to do so.

“This law gave the FDA authority over cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, and has been misapplied to allow the agency to expand its oversight to additional products, such as electronic cigarettes,” Cabrera’s group said in a press release.

The FDA has reportedly completed the drafting of its regulation and submitted it to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review by OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

FDA has been saying for at least the last two years that it intends to include electronic cigarettes under its authority and it has come under increasing criticism from anti-smoking groups and some lawmakers for the plodding pace at which it has proceeded. In April, five senators, all Democrats, wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, urging the agency to make haste.

“Unlike traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes can be legally sold to children and are not subject to age verification laws,” the senators wrote. “E-cigarettes marketed to appeal to kids in candy and fruit flavors, like bubblegum and strawberry, are readily available to youth in shopping malls and online. These products risk addicting children to nicotine, which could be a pathway to cigarettes and other tobacco products.”

In a news release, SFATA said it is “encouraging the FDA and elected officials to refer to research established by credible health professionals who offer scientific evidence proving that e-cigarettes are a reliable, adult alternative to combustible cigarettes.” It didn’t cite any such evidence iin its release, however.

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