FDA’s new tobacco rules may have an unintended effect, UB expert says

Release Date: May 5, 2016

“There is concern that these regulations will put e-cigarettes back under the control of the multinational tobacco corporations.”
Gary Giovino, professor and chair of community health and health behavior
University at Buffalo

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Gary Giovino, professor and chair of community health and health behavior, University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s long-awaited ruling Thursday establishing new regulations for e-cigarettes and other tobacco products will help better inform consumers, but there is a down side, according to University at Buffalo tobacco expert Gary Giovino.

“There is concern that these regulations will put e-cigarettes back under the control of the multinational tobacco corporations. That could be a bad thing, because by giving control to the big companies, they will promote the most profitable products – likely combusted cigarettes,” said Giovino, professor and chair of community health and health behavior at UB.

“I think the new regulations will pose problems for smaller businesses that make e-cigarettes. These companies likely will not have the resources to deliver all the information the FDA is asking for. This could stifle innovation and hurt public health in the long run, to the extent that innovative e-cigarette products will help people move off of combusted tobacco products,” added Giovino, who in 2012 led the world’s largest tobacco use study, which surveyed more than 435,000 respondents representing 3 billion people from 16 countries.

The FDA’s new regulations bar the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under age 18. They also require manufacturers whose products went on sale after Feb. 15, 2007, to obtain FDA approval in order to continue selling their products. The agency’s regulations extend to cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, in addition to e-cigarettes, all of which were previously unregulated by the FDA.

“The free-market system relies on a fully informed consumer, and in the case of tobacco there has been an enormous market failure in that regard, which has cost millions of lives in the United States alone,” said Giovino, who previously served as chief of the epidemiology branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health.

“By asserting jurisdiction over multiple tobacco products not covered in the original Tobacco Control Act, the FDA has the potential to correct, to some extent at least, that market failure. Time will tell how well it does that,” he added.

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