After state efforts go up in smoke, U.S. brings vape rules to Pennsylvania

Sophran Sok demonstrates the use of an electronic vaping device at Exclusive Vape Shop on South Street. New federal rules regarding e-cigarettes will have a distinct effect in Pennsylvania. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

Sophran Sok demonstrates the use of an electronic vaping device at Exclusive Vape Shop on South Street. New federal rules regarding e-cigarettes will have a distinct effect in Pennsylvania. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

Over two years, state lawmakers from Willow Grove to Northwestern Pennsylvania have introduced — and ultimately failed to pass — legislation to limit sales of e-cigarettes to minors.

Now, thanks to sweeping regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, that and other rules governing the practice popularly called “vaping” are out of Harrisburg’s hands.

Along with Michigan, Pennsylvania was the only state without a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. According to the FDA, use of e-cigarettes by minors climbed from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent

“With slick marketing aimed at younger generations, the use of nicotine-delivery products such as e-cigarettes has climbed to levels that are a concern to physicians and public health officials,” said Dr. Scott Shapiro, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, who welcomed the new regulations.

However, with no prior laws in place, Pennsylvania will have a long way to go to come into compliance. 

Gerie Voss with the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products said the federal government has built in lag time to implement the news rules and will help local governments get up to speed.

“FDA will be working with states and localities to be sure that this law is enforced,” she said. “The agency also will be giving lots of resources to retailers as to how they can comply.”

The rules will start to kick in Aug. 8, with compliance deadlines to follow.

The new rules will bar sales of the often fruity- or candy-flavored products to minors, require labeling e-cigarettes with health warnings, and set limits on what goes into “e-juice,” the liquid that’s vaporized in the pen-sized electronic cigarettes. Manufacturers, including myriad small retailers that mix their own e-juice concoctions, will have to register with the FDA and provide ingredient lists.

Until now, said Voss, manufacturers could sell “whatever” to vapers.

“Whether they were mixing a million different types of liquids, consumers really didn’t know what was in them, and they didn’t know they contained nicotine,” she said.

The regulations also ban selling e-cigarettes from vending machines and marketing products as “mild” or “light” unless permitted by the FDA.

The American Vaping Association has spoken out against FDA regulations and point to some qualified health benefits of vaping, which include their ability to help some tobacco smokers quit.

The regulations do not affect where people can vape, however some municipalities — including Philadelphia — have already banned vaping indoors.

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