Anti-tobacco groups urge FDA to crack down on synthetic nicotine in e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON — Anti-tobacco groups are urging the government to regulate synthetic nicotine e-cigarette products as drugs so that they undergo the same oversight as traditional tobacco.

The letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was signed by several organizations including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Lung Association.

The groups argued that e-cigarette manufacturers are using a loophole to avoid government regulations.

Right now, synthetic nicotine is not regulated as a drug by the FDA, meaning it does not have the same standards as tobacco.

“As FDA denies marketing applications for e-cigarettes, manufacturers are exploring using synthetic nicotine in order to continue marketing their products while avoiding FDA regulation,” the letter said. “This development makes it even more imperative that FDA take immediate action against illegal, synthetic nicotine products.”

“It’s not less harmful,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It’s not less addictive. It is totally designed to circumvent government regulation.”

Myers said many of the companies that were denied approval from the FDA for vaping products are now turning to synthetic nicotine since it doesn’t require the same authorization.

“The companies that have used nicotine derived from tobacco to nicotine made in a laboratory are the companies whose products have been denied because of their appeal to youth and their lack of evidence that they actually help smokers quit,” said Myers.

Public health groups have been pushing the FDA for changes to synthetic nicotine regulations for several years and have sent at least three letters.

Vaping advocates, meanwhile, said the efforts by anti-tobacco groups are misguided.

“There is a reason these letters have gone unanswered through two different presidential administrations,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association. “Tobacco-free nicotine was invented to eliminate trace levels of impurities that are present in traditional nicotine sources, not to evade regulation. Rather than expanding the futile war on drugs to nicotine, we believe all nicotine products should be regulated as consumer products and sold only to adult consumers 21 years and over.”

The FDA did not provide a timeline for responding to the writers of the letter.

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