LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - For many years, the Food and Drug Administration has been able to regulate cigarettes, but now they are looking to include other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, under those same regulations
The FDA has been trying to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, like cigars, since 2009. That's when President Barack Obama gave the FDA authority to control the distribution and manufacturing of tobacco products in order to protect public health.
Because it's taken longer than expected, one local business chain isn't waiting for the changes to be implemented.
"Any customer that looks under the age of 30, they get carded for e-cigarettes," said John McHugh, the manager of corporate communications at Kwik Trip.
Since day one, the Kwik Trips in La Crosse have taken it upon themselves to regulate electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products
"As soon as they get scanned into the register, our workers are prompted to ask for an I.D," said McHugh.
The electronic cigarettes are kept behind the counter where they are only accessible to co-workers. However, this isn't the case in all convenient stores.
"They do not have to be behind the counter tops like cigarettes do. I have seen them at various convenient stores on counter tops, next to candy, next to the Oreos and on top of the ice cream machines," said Judi Zabel, a health educator with La Crosse County Health Services.
Some are even sold in vending machines making it easy for underage users to get their hands on them.
"They are very inexpensive, only $5.99," said Zabel.
Now the FDA is hoping to change that by adding more regulation by requiring companies to list all of the ingredients.
"You have no idea what you are getting, it's a Russian roulette. It's a wild West free-for-all out there right now with this product," said Zabel.
The FDA would also regulate distribution.
"You will not be able to sell them in a vending machine, so that will be something new and make it more difficult to purchase the e-cig as a minor," said Zabel.
It's an attempt to slow down a multibillion dollar industry that some say has gone under the radar for far too long.
"The industry has gone gangbusters and really been moving very quickly," said Zabel.
"We are actually somewhat surprised it's taken the FDA this long to rule on it," said McHugh.
The proposed new sets of rules do not go into effect right away. The public will have 75 days to provide feedback and input to the FDA, and then it will be about a year before those rules go into effect.
The FDA will start accepting comments about the regulation of tobacco products April 25. Click here for a link to the FDA comments section.
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