Regulation

FDA has summer to finalize tobacco deeming regs, Senate Dem says

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is giving the Food and Drug Administration until the end of the summer to finalize its deeming regulations for all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and cigars.

The Tobacco Control Act provides the FDA with the authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, smokeless tobacco and any other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, that the agency deems by regulation to be subject to the law.

The agency first proposed this deeming regulation more than a year ago, and Blumenthal said it has exceeded the deadline to finalize the rule.

"We've met with the appropriate officials at the administration," he said. "We're pushing them hard to protect the public, and I will introduce legislation if they fail to act promptly."

During an event hosted by the American Association for Cancer Research, Blumenthal said he's troubled by data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month that showed use of e-cigarettes among middle- and high-school students has tripled in the last year.

"People smoke; they continue to smoke even in the face of the self-destructive, disastrous effects of smoking because they're addicted," he said. "The overwhelming majority of smokers try to quit, and they can't."

During the event, Maciej Goniewicz, assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., said the formaldehyde found in the liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes is a known carcinogen.

"We know that formaldehyde is a carcinogenic compound," he said "There are different levels of that formaldehyde in electronic cigarettes."

Goniewicz said the levels of formaldehyde in the vapor vary depending on temperature. Products with strong batteries that allow users to increase the temperature inside the device, he said, are breathing in more formaldehyde.

Though hailed by the tobacco industry as a device to help cigarette smokers quit smoking, an official with the CDC said close to three-quarters of e-cigarette users are also smoking traditional cigarettes.

"And there's a reason we're concerned about dual use," said Brian King, acting deputy director for research translation for the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "That's because cutting back is not enough even a few cigarettes a day are dangerous."

Smoking just five cigarettes a day can double your risk of dying from heart disease, according to a CDC report. The good news, however, King said, is there are a lot of benefits to quitting completely.

"With heart disease, your risk is cut in half one year after quitting and that will continue to drop over time," he said. "Even quitting at age 50 cuts your risk in half of early death from smoking related diseases."

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