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New FDA regulations target e-cigs, vaping

JACKSON, MISS– New Food and Drug Administration regulations went into effect Monday regarding e-cigarettes and vaping. 

The sale of e-cigs to minors has been banned; a practice that Planet of the Vapes owner Mitch Oakes said was not practiced in his Jackson vape shop.

“Many of us (shop owners) didn’t sell to minors anyway,” said Oakes. “It was a gray area. There was no hard, fast law against it, but we used common sense.”

Oakes said gas stations and online vendors were less likely to require the customer to be 18 for a purchase. The gray area, he said, came because there are nicotine-free varieties to choose from.

Vape shops have gained their fame for the “try-before-you-buy” mentality when it comes to different flavored liquids, called “juices.” Many shops allowed flavors to be sampled so the customer could get a taste of what was being sold.

“No more free samples,” said Oakes. “We can’t do that anymore, with the new regulations. We will be charging a fee beforehand for trying the flavors.”

The FDA regulation also banned the sale of juices, e-cigs, or mods in vending machines that could be accessed by all ages. The new regulations have also been applied to cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco.

Moving forward, the FDA has required that any new product must be approved and meet standards before it could be sold, unless the product was available before February of 2017.

“We can keep doing our day-to-day, like we have been, with what’s already here,” said Oakes. “But new technology or juices have to be approved, and that’s a lengthy process.”

And a costly one, according to Oakes.

“It could cost over $1 million per new technology, new flavor,” said Oakes. “It’s de facto prohibition, is what they’re trying to do.”

Officials with the FDA have said the regulations are to curb the habit for those who most commonly try vaping or e-cigs–teenagers.

“This final rule is a foundation step that enables the FDA to regulate products young people were using at alarming rates, like e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah tobacco, which had gone largely unregulated,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products said during a press conference in May, when the new regulations were announced.

A study by the Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut revealed that teenagers tried vaping or e-cigs for two reasons: because other teens were trying it, or because they wanted to give up smoking–but the desired results did not always occur.

“Even though they said they were using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, it doesn’t appear to have necessarily helped them,” said Yale researcher Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin.

While the FDA cited health as a reason for the regulations, Oakes said that the reason for the new regs runs deeper than that.

“Tobacco sales are down 20 percent,” said Oakes. “This is ‘big pharma’ and ‘big tobacco’ working against that.”

Oakes said the dip in tobacco business came from people turning to e-cigs and vaping to quit.

“I’ve had doctors send folks my way to help them quit smoking,” said Oakes. “And even insurance companies too, that happened recently.”

Clients who had smoked for decades have told Oakes they credit vaping for helping them give up the habit that gripped them.

Another regulation that took effect Monday wouldn’t allow retailers to advertise that vaping is healthier than smoking until there was ample research to back it up.

“I got into this business to help people,” said Oakes. “Sure, you’ve got the hobby guys who just want to blow big clouds (smoke), but I did this to help others quit smoking.”

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier said these devices, known as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) do not help a person quit, and could actually lead to over exposure to nicotine.

“We know that more research on ENDS and similar products must still be done. There is not enough information on the effects of using ENDS for us to ensure the health and safety of all Mississippians,” said Currier. “Nicotine use is known to have adverse health effects, and preliminary studies show that e-cigarette use leads to cigarette consumption.”

In Mississippi, there have been over 40 cases of nicotine exposure related to e-cigs reported to the Mississippi Poison Control Center in the last five years, according to the Mississippi Department of Health.

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