E-Cigarettes and Federal Regulation

A woman smokes a cigarette outside a building, at dawn.

E-cigarettes are currently unregulated at the federal level

E-cigarettes, virtually non-existent 10 years ago, have skyrocketed in popularity. Though often shaped like a traditional cigarette, they are fundamentally different in both design and ingredients and are widely believed by supporters and critics to be a safer alternative and a potentially valuable tool in weaning people off tobacco cigarettes. How much safer, however, and how well they function as a smoking cessation device are key questions subject to a fierce debate.

E-cigarettes are currently unregulated at the federal level. But in April 2014 the FDA moved to change that, issuing a proposed rule that would give the agency the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, banning their sale to people under 18 and prohibiting free samples, among other constraints. The FDA will accept comments on the proposed rule until August 8, 2014, and could well extend that time. Then it is likely to spend many more months crafting its final rule.


updated july 18, 2014

This brief was updated on July 18, 2014 to reflect the recent announcement of a merger between Reynolds American and Lorillard and its impact on the market. Lorillard is currently the market leader in e-cigarettes.


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Initial industry reaction to the proposed rule, according to press reports, was relatively positive, with e-cigarette makers praising the FDA’s ‘scientific-based approach.’

T.R. Goldman

Media Contacts

Sue Ducat

Health Affairs (301) 841-9962

Additional Media Contact: Melissa Blair

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (609) 627-5937

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# of youth each day under 18, who try cigarettes; 700+ go on to become daily smokers.