New FDA head: 'Full steam ahead' on e-cig rules

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The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Monday that the agency is moving “full speed ahead” with its efforts to crack down on the use of e-cigarettes.

Two weeks into his tenure, Dr. Stephen Ostroff said strengthening tobacco regulations is one of his top priorities. He pointed to alarming new federal data that showed the use of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students has tripled in the last year — a trend that landed on the front page of nearly every national newspaper.

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“Data released last week from the National Youth Tobacco Survey showing dramatic increases in reported use of e-cigarettes is a cogent reminder of just how important the deeming rule is,” Ostroff told the audience gathered for the annual conference Food and Drug Law Institute.

“We are moving full speed ahead on the proposed deeming rule, which sets the stage for expanding the types of tobacco products that we regulate, including e-cigarettes,” Ostroff added.

The FDA originally floated the idea of regulating e-cigarettes four years ago, before formally proposing rules last April. The agency received more than 135,000 comments on the proposed regulations rule, which Ostroff said “has been a challenge of the first order.”

Under the proposed rule, the FDA would prohibit e-cigarettes from being sold to children under the age of 18. But the proposal does not specifically address e-cig marketing and advertisements that health advocates say appeal to children.

The FDA’s long-time commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, retired from her post just months before the agency is expected to issue sweeping new e-cigarette regulations. She helped shape the e-cigarette rules as one of her last acts as commissioner.