The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is ready to tackle a fast-growing new industry: electronic cigarettes. It proposed new regulations Thursday designed to increase oversight and ensure public safety, but Virginia is already well ahead of the curve.
State lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last month to tighten up the rules for e-cigarettes. Starting July 1, retailers will be officially prohibited from selling to people under the age of 18 and will be required to display a sign explaining the new rules.
Critics of e-cigarettes say the different flavors, colors and devices rapidly gaining popularity are attracting minors in droves. According to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), nearly 9,000 children under the age of 18 become new daily smokers each year in the commonwealth.
"It appears that the trend is leaning towards electronic cigarettes and nicotine products," said Ryan Porter, assistant special agent in charge with the Virginia ABC.
Nick Patel of Ash Tobacco in Ashland, VA, is one of many retailers who have chosen voluntarily not to sell e-cigarettes to minors. This new rule, he says, won't change anything.
"We never sell anything to minors," Patel said. "We don't even sell a lighter to minors, forget about electronic cigarettes."
But Virginia's regulations are just the beginning.
"We knew something was coming down, the industry knew something was coming down," said Cole Smith of Richmond-based Avail Vapor.
Proposed FDA regulations would build on the commonwealth's momentum, requiring manufacturers to disclose their ingredients among other things. Companies like Avail Vapor say that level of transparency would help bring more legitimacy to the industry.
"There are a lot of question marks in folks minds about what is in the product, what's the safety of the product?" Smith said.
Virginia's age requirements will go into effect this summer, but federal rules will take longer. The public will have 75 days to respond to the FDA's proposals. There is no timetable as to when they could be introduced.
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story
Sign Up for Email Alerts
Sign up to receive NBC29 news and weather updates in your inbox daily.