The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is said to be close to finalizing new rules for e-cigarettes, according to sources familiar with the proceedings. There is a chance that the new rules may temporarily ban flavored e-cigarette liquids, including menthol and mint, until the agency can review their safety. If e-cigarette companies can show the flavors provide a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, they may be reintroduced to the market.
Vaping has come under intense scrutiny after a recent spate of illnesses appeared to be related to the habit. The mystery respiratory illness now has 530 confirmed cases, with another 1,000 possible cases being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So far, one death has been reported in each Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Georgia and Florida, and two people have died in both California and Kansas.
The cases have involved mostly formerly healthy young adults. Symptoms of the illness include shortness of breath, chest pains, and nausea. Some sufferers have had to be put on ventilators. The CDC and FDA have not yet named the cause of the illnesses despite more than a month of investigation.
The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently held a hearing on e-cigarettes’ effect on public health. At the hearing, Ned Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, said, “E-cigarette products are not safe.” He also said that all e-cigarettes currently on the market are illegal because they haven’t been assessed by the FDA. According to his testimony, the FDA is still weeks away from finalizing policies that would increase enforcement and remove products from the market.
The Federal Trade Commission recently started investigating Juul, the largest U.S. e-cigarette maker, over its marketing techniques. The FDA has issued a warning to Juul, over its claims that its products are safer than cigarettes. The company is also facing a probe from federal prosecutors in California. In response, the company announced it would cease all print, broadcast, and digital advertising.