A Department of Agriculture appropriations bill under consideration in Congress includes a special exemption from the Food and Drug Administration review for certain tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes. Congress, the FDA, and the courts have been debating for years just how "e-cigs" should be regulated.
The bill, as it currently stands, would limit the FDA's ability to review certain tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, before they hit the market.
Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, says granting the FDA such "pre-market review" authority over e-cigs would be useless, because there are already thousands of e-cig and "vaping" products on the market. He says not only would the influx of applications swamp the already-stretched FDA, but it might force e-cig companies to take their products off the market while they wait for approval.
While the federal government works out how it will handle e-cigs, several communities all over the country are moving ahead with their own policies.
“I think we could wait a long time for the federal government to decide," says Esther Manheimer, mayor of Asheville, North Carolina, "but I think our community had already decided.”
Asheville's city council voted earlier this year to ban e-cigs from public buildings, parks and buses.
For those using e-cigs to help them quit traditional smoking, Manheimer suggests “they can try to quit smoking not in a park.”
Asheville parks join universities, restaurants and several other cities all over the country that have banned e-cigs. The federal government's position is clearer in the Department of Transportation, which banned e-cigs on planes back in 2011.