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FDA ‘Very Close’ to Regulating E-Cigarettes, Hookah, Cigars and Pipes

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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has launched a $35.7 million anti-smoking public education campaign focused on preventing tobacco use among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young adults 18-24 years old.

According to an FDA official, the agency is going to have authority to regulate e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes and hookah, which will likely be part of future public advertising campaigns.

“Our goal for this is we really want the campaign to encourage young adults who smoke occasionally but not every day to be tobacco-free and to live without the pressures of having to smoke as being part of the community,” said Kathy Crosby, director of the Office of Health Communication and Education in the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

According to the FDA, LGBT young adults are more likely to turn to smoking than their heterosexual peers.

Video advertisements will be placed on social media websites as well as dating websites such as OkCupid.

“It’s important to note that these are funded by FDA’s user fees that are collected by the tobacco industry and not taxpayer dollars,” Crosby told PJM.

The campaign does not focus on preventing the use of electronic cigarettes, hookah, cigars and pipes, but the agency told PJM it will soon have regulatory authority in those areas without the need for congressional approval. An FDA official pointed out that the agency currently only regulates traditional cigarettes and tobacco.

“We are close to completing the so-called deeming rule-making where we will soon have regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, hookah, cigars and pipes, but until we have the regulatory authority we’re not in a position to make the investment in public education,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We have concerns about young adults’ use of e-cigarettes but that will have to await another day.”

Zeller expanded on the status of the FDA’s regulatory authority in that space and why congressional action is not necessary.

“The status is we are very close to completing the so-called deeming rule-making where we would, through the rule-making process, declare that other tobacco products that meet the statutory definition of a tobacco product are within our regulatory reach,” he explained.

“What Congress wrote is the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. When it was passed in 2009 there was a provision that says the agency, through the rule-making process, where first we publish a proposed rule and then ask for comment from all interested parties and then spend whatever time is necessary to review the comments and then re-visit whatever it was that had been proposed prior to issuing a final rule,” he added.