May 5, 2016 — In a move sure to upend the e-cigarette industry, the FDA has announced expensive new approval requirements and banned sales to minors.
In 90 days, new rules go into effect that ban sales of e-cigarettes to people under 18 and require photo ID for age verification. Shops will no longer be able to give out free samples or sell products in vending machines.
The FDA is also requiring an approval application for vaping liquids that were brought to market after February 15, 2007. Manufacturers have two years to submit the application and an additional year while it undergoes review.
The FDA said each product application will cost at least $330,000 and must include extensive research on ingredients and the impact on public health.
Advocates say it will devastate the $3.7 billion e-cigarette industry. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said: “Ninety-nine percent plus of the products on the vapor market now will be banned within two years.”
E-cigarette advocate Jeff Stier told USA Today that each individual flavor and potency will require a separate application, which could cost upwards of $1 million.
The rules also technically apply to cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookah, but most of these products will be “grandfathered” in because they have been on the market for decades. E-cigarettes did not go mainstream until 2007.
The face of the industry will certainly change as new rules go into effect. With more than half of e-cigarette sales occurring in specialty vape shops and online, banning products could push the industry underground.
Ironically, the “big three” tobacco companies are well-poised to take advantage of the changes. Already in the e-cigarette game, they could significantly increase market share as smaller competitors go out of business.
At the very least, this is probably the end for flavored vaping liquids. The FDA is unlikely to allow flavoring chemicals like diacetyl, which have been linked to an incurable lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans (“Popcorn Lung”). Symptoms of the disease include excessive coughing and shortness of breath.
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