A federal judge has told the FDA to quit blocking the importation of electronic cigarettes from China and ruled the devices should be regulated like tobacco products rather than as drugs or medical devices.
Judge Richard Leon of Federal District Court in Washington issued the order in a lawsuit brought by e-cigarette distributors.
e-Cigarettes are battery-powered tubes that heat liquid nicotine into a vapor which is subsequently inhaled. The devices also add ingredients that give the vapor a taste and smell just like cigarette smoke.
According to e-cigarette distributors, the inhaled mix does not contain cancer-causing chemicals. The FDA argues they have not been proven safe.
Judge Leon ruled that last year’s tobacco legislation gave the FDA power to regulate the contents and marketing claims of e-cigarettes just like traditional tobacco products, but not to ban them.
The FDA released a statement in response: “The public health issues surrounding electronic cigarettes are of serious concern to the FDA. The agency is reviewing Judge Leon’s opinion and will decide the appropriate action to take.”
Ray Story, a VP at Smoking Everywhere, the plaintiff in the suit, claimed the ruling was a victory for people who want a safer cigarette. “The public will have a less harmful alternative to tobacco products,” Story said. “Wherever they’re sold, we are going to be sold.”
Matthew Myers, president of the antismoking advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, decried the ruling. “These products could serve as a pathway to nicotine addiction for children,” Meyers told the New York Times.
People have estimated e-cigarettes could grow to become a $100 million business nationwide. Traditional cigarette makers are not involved in the e-cigarette business.