FDA weighs new restrictions on liquid nicotine products

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Liquid Nicotine: E-Cigarettes Under Attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials are considering whether to require new warnings and child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine formulas used with e-cigarettes and other emerging tobacco products.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it is responding to an uptick in nicotine poisonings reported by emergency rooms and poison centers nationwide, many involving infants and children. The agency said in an online posting it is considering whether "it would be appropriate for the protection of the public health to warn the public about the dangers or nicotine exposure" and "require that some tobacco products be sold in child-resistant packaging."

Liquid nicotine is primarily used to refill e-cigarettes, a fast-growing market encompassing hundreds of products and an estimated $2.1 billion in sales. But the agency also has concerns about other novel tobacco products hitting the market, including dissolvable nicotine strips, lotions, gels and beverages.

More history on e-cigarettes:

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FDA weighs new restrictions on liquid nicotine products
Graphic explains how electronic cigarettes work. (Image via AP)
E-cigarettes appear on display at Vape store in Chicago, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Electronic cigarettes purchased by Cliff Phillips, a 61-year-old retiree and former smoker, and his wife, Vali, are seen at their home in Cuba, Ill., Tuesday, May 31, 2011. Electronic cigarettes like the one used by Phillips are at the middle of a social and legal debate over whether it’s OK to "light up" in places where regular smokes are banned. E-cigarettes, which are gaining popularity and scrutiny worldwide, are plastic and metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge, creating vapor that the "smoker" inhales. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014 photo, Talia Eisenberg, co-founder of the Henley Vaporium, uses her vaping device in New York. Soon, the Food and Drug Administration will propose rules for e-cigarettes. The rules will have big implications for a fast-growing industry and its legions of customers. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
In this Feb. 20, 2014 photo, Peter Denholtz, a former smoker and now co-owner of the Henley Vaporium in New York, explains his use of e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are usually made of metal parts combined with plastic or glass and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They heat the liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that quickly dissipates when exhaled. The vapor looks like tobacco smoke and can feel like tobacco smoke when taken into the lungs at varying strengths, from no nicotine up to 24 milligrams or more. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: E-Cigarettes are sold at the V-Revolution E-Cigarette shop in Covent Garden on August 27, 2014 in London, England. The Department of Health have ruled out the outlawing of 'e-cigs' in enclosed spaces in England, despite calls by WHO, The World Health Organisation to do so. WHO have recommended a ban on indoor smoking of e-cigs as part of tougher regulation of products dangerous to children. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Different flavours for E-Cigarettes are sold at the V-Revolution E-Cigarette shop in Covent Garden on August 27, 2014 in London, England. The Department of Health have ruled out the outlawing of 'e-cigs' in enclosed spaces in England, despite calls by WHO, The World Health Organisation to do so. WHO have recommended a ban on indoor smoking of e-cigs as part of tougher regulation of products dangerous to children. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a smoker poses for photos while taking a puff on a Smokio, an electronic cigarette or vaporizer that connects to an iPhone and other smartphones via Bluetooth to track puffs, tally the cost-savings and possible health benefits from switching from regular cigarettes, in Richmond, Va. E-cigarette technology is developing rapidly and federal officials say the technology race could make creating standards for the devices, which heat a liquid to create vapor rather than burning tobacco, more difficult in the future. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Brian Vincent poses in front of a large display of tobacco products at Vincent's Country Store in Westminster, Mass., Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. Local officials are contemplating what could be a first: a blanket ban on all forms of tobacco and e-cigarettes, leaving some shop owners fuming. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
In this Aug. 14, 2014, photo, shows Daniel Pettley exhaling vapor as he demonstrates the use of his electronic cigarette, at Salt Lake Vapors, in Salt Lake City. Poison control workers say that as the e-cigarette industry has boomed, the number of children exposed to the liquid nicotine that gives hand-held vaporizing gadgets their kick also is spiking. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that more than 2,700 people have called about a liquid nicotine exposure this year, up from a few hundred cases three years ago. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Aug. 14, 2014 photo, Jesse Feveryear exhales vapor as he demonstrates the use of his electronic cigarette at Salt Lake Vapors, in Salt Lake City. The Utah Department of Health says new survey data shows a significant increase in electronic cigarettes use among both adults and teenagers. A spokesman for the department say liquid nicotine’s candy flavors can be more attractive to young people than traditional cigarettes, but using the devices can create a lasting addition to nicotine. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This Aug. 14, 2014 photo shows child-proof refill bottles of liquid nicotine on display at Salt Lake Vapors, in Salt Lake City. The Utah Department of Health says new survey data shows a significant increase in electronic cigarettes use among both adults and teenagers. A spokesman for the department say liquid nicotine’s candy flavors can be more attractive to young people than traditional cigarettes, but using the devices can create a lasting addition to nicotine. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Sales clerk Sam Patel, of Waltham, Mass., displays Zippo Blu butane lighter, left, and a blu e-cigarette, right, at a shop, Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Brookline, Mass. The maker of Zippo lighters and Lorillard, the nation’s third-biggest tobacco company, are battling over the Blu brand name being used on both Zippo lighters and an electronic cigarette brand. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Sales clerk Sam Patel, of Waltham, Mass., displays a blu e-cigarette, right, and a container of the e-cigarettes, left, at a shop, Wednesday, May 21, 2014, in Brookline, Mass. The maker of Zippo lighters and Lorillard, the nation’s third-biggest tobacco company, are battling over the Blu brand name being used on both Zippo lighters and an electronic cigarette brand. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this Feb. 20, 2014 photo, a patron exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at the Henley Vaporium in New York. The proprietors are peddling e-cigarettes to "vapers" in a growing movement that now includes celebrity fans and YouTube gurus, online forums and vapefests around the world. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Eric Scheman demonstrates an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Vials of flavored liquid are seen at Vapeology LA, a store selling electronic cigarettes and related items, at John Hartigan's store in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Two California cities have voted to ban electronic cigarettes in public places, and Los Angeles on Wednesday moved to prohibit their sale to minors. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
John Hartigan, right, proprietor of Vapeology LA, a store selling electronic cigarettes and related items, shakes hands with a customer at his store in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Two California cities have voted to ban electronic cigarettes in public places, and Los Angeles on Wednesday moved to prohibit their sale to minors. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
This Aug. 14, 2014, photo shows child-proof refill bottles of liquid nicotine at Salt Lake Vapors, in Salt Lake City. Poison control workers say that as the e-cigarette industry has boomed, the number of children exposed to the liquid nicotine that gives hand-held vaporizing gadgets their kick also is spiking. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that more than 2,700 people have called about a liquid nicotine exposure this year, up from a few hundred cases three years ago. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Daryl Cura demonstrates an e-cigarette at Vape store in Chicago, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The federal government wants to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and require approval for new products and health warning labels under regulations being proposed by the Food and Drug Administration. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
This photo taken on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, shows Blair Roberts, a 22-year-old sales associate at Colorado E-Smokes as he adds the liquid nicotine solution to the filter end of an electronic cigarette at an E-Smokes store in Aurora, Colo. There’s no legal age minimum for e-cigarettes in Colorado, and growing health concern that so-called “vaping” of nicotine is growing among kids has made Colorado the latest state to consider age requirements for the nicotine devices popping up at mall kiosks and convenience stores. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
This photo taken on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, shows Blair Roberts, a 22-year-old sales associate at Colorado E-Smokes as he demonstrates the use of a electronic cigarette and the smoke like vapor that comes from it at an E-Smokes store in Aurora, Colo. There’s no legal age minimum for e-cigarettes in Colorado, and growing health concern that so-called “vaping” of nicotine is growing among kids has made Colorado the latest state to consider age requirements for the nicotine devices popping up at mall kiosks and convenience stores. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2010 file photo, a package of blucigs electronic cigarettes are shown in Asheboro, N.C. A North Carolina law banning sales of electronic cigarettes to minors takes effect Thursday, Aug. 1. E-cigarettes emit a vapor that includes nicotine but without many of the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. Now convenience stores and other places that sell the product will be responsible for enforcing the law. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File )
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The agency will seek public comment on a number of questions surrounding the proposed warnings and safe guards, according to a government memo due to be published Wednesday.

Under a 2009 law, the FDA gained authority to regulate some aspects of cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products. Among other things, the agency can restrict advertising to youth, require warning labels and evaluate new tobacco products for their health risks.

But since e-cigarettes and other liquid-nicotine products do not actually contain tobacco, they are not covered by the original law.

A year ago, the FDA released a proposal bringing e-cigarettes and other newer products under its authority. The agency was slated to finalize that regulation this month, but an FDA spokesman said Tuesday that the agency "hopes to finalize the rule this summer."

Anti-tobacco activists applauded the FDA proposal, but also said the FDA must complete its regulations for new products.

"We're pleased that the FDA is taking this step, but this is not a replacement for quickly issuing a final, strong deeming rule that regulates all tobacco products and addresses flavors and marketing," said Susan Liss, executive director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a printed statement.

The FDA will take comments from the public for 60 days on more than two dozen questions, including:

— what language to use on any nicotine exposure warnings

— whether to use graphic warnings about nicotine exposure

— whether child-resistant packaging should be required for products besides liquid nicotine

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat liquid nicotine to produce an odorless vapor that users inhale. Many brands also feature flavors, such as mint, cherry or coffee. Manufacturers have sometimes touted the products as a less dangerous alternative to smoking because they don't contain the cancer-causing ingredients found in many traditional cigarettes.

But public health officials have been highly skeptical of such claims, pointing out there are no definitive studies on their health effects.

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that nicotine is harmful to the developing brain. And e-cigarettes could be a new way of introducing kids to nicotine, they warn.

The number of high school students who have tried e-cigarettes tripled last year — to more than 13 percent — while traditional teen smoking hit a new low, according to recent figures from the CDC.

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