The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a possible online-sales ban of e-cigarettes, as it prepares its proposed regulations for the devices, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The FDA and e-cigarette makers have had been meeting recently, allowing the e-cigarette makers the opportunity to hare their views on potential regulations. The agency is expected to formally announce its proposals this October.
The “listening sessions” at FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., are part of a series of meetings, which have also included conference calls organized at the industry’s request. At least 20 FDA staffers have attended the gatherings at the FDA headquarters, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Company executives have discussed with the FDA an online-sales ban to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors and whether the minimum legal age for buying them should be 18 or 19. In addition, FDA is also reported to be reviewing television, radio and print advertising standards for the products.
Mitch Zeller, who became director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in March, is spearheading the project.
“It is true that more research is needed on the health effects of e-cigarettes. However, we do not need more research on whether e-cigarettes should or should not be included in proposed FDA regulations,” Zeller told the Wall Street Journal.
“We have long been saying that we expect tight regulations of e-cigs and that we wouldn’t be surprised if an online ban was eventually enacted,” noted Bonnie Herzog, managing director, Beverage, Tobacco & Consumer Research for Wells Fargo Securities LLC, in a statement. “If online sales are banned, we’d expect most of the online sales volume (currently $500-625M) to move to traditional retailers, where we believe e-cig sales have passed $1B (we believe total sales—retail and online—will hit $1.7B by the end of the year).
If online sales of e-cigs were banned, Herzog noted this would be a huge positive for e-cig manufacturers who are already well entrenched with retailers, including blu with over 100,000 retail points of distribution and privately-held NJOY. “Blu’s online sales are about 15-20% of its total, and we think most of this volume would move to brick-and-mortar stores if online sales were banned. Bottom line—we would not be surprised if online e-cig sales were restricted or banned but this does not impact our bullish thesis that consumption of e-cigs could overtake conventional cigs within the next decade,” she said.