Americans who vape will no doubt have heard of the Premarket Tobacco Applications (PMTA) scenario. This was originally intended to come into play in 2018, but a press release from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the regulations will not now be brought in until 2022.
The PMTA has been developed as part of a larger plan to reduce smoking in the US. The plan includes the use of electronic cigarettes, since they also contain nicotine. However, while vapers have been breathing a sigh of relief at the delay being announced, they have also spotted the FDA is highlighting vaping as a different method of nicotine delivery to smoking.
FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said the delivery method for nicotine is “the bigger problem”. He spoke of cigarettes as a “deadly” mechanism for getting a nicotine hit. The original FDA guidelines announced a date of 2018 for applications to be received for vaping products to be examined. Now the date has been pushed back by four years, it takes the pressure off the vaping industry.
There was a real fear the local regulations surrounding vaping, coupled with the new requirements that would have come in next year, might have killed the vaping industry in America altogether. However, the deadline has now been extended, and there are also signs the FDA wants to take a new approach to combating the number of tobacco-related deaths occurring in the US each year. At present, that number stands at around 480,000 deaths annually.
The FDA is considering reducing the level of nicotine in regular cigarettes – a proposal that has come as a real shock to the tobacco industry. There is a limit to what the FDA can do. For example, it can’t ban cigarettes completely, and it cannot ban the inclusion of nicotine. But by reducing the levels in cigarettes, it is suggested many people would not become addicted to them. Thus, there could be stricter rules on regular combustible cigarettes as opposed to e-cigs.
Will there be greater clarity on vaping? It is too early to say. Vaping has been targeted in America as a danger to public health, rather than a safer alternative to smoking for those who want to give up. It is also true that vaping is more successful for those who want to quit smoking than using nicotine patches or chewing gum. This is partly because the action of holding and using a vaping device is much the same as smoking. This is a crucial element that seems to be misunderstood by some who do not smoke.
While the PMTA has not been completely eradicated, the deadline extension of four years gives more time for a more positive approach to be taken. And that distinction between vaping and smoking may just be the most important element of all. We will be watching closely to see what happens next, and whether vapers could be about to turn the corner to a more positive future.