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Vaping companies sue to delay US review of e-cigarettes

FILE - In this Tuesday, April 10, 2018 photo, a high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students at the school in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, the Vapor Technology Association filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government to delay a review of electronic cigarettes. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The lawsuit is the latest hurdle in the Food and Drug Administration’s yearslong effort to regulate the multibillion-dollar vaping industry.  The regulations would cover those who make and sell e-cigarette devices and flavored solutions.

The vaping group argued that the May 2020  submission deadline could wipe out many of the smaller companies. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.

Health concerns

E-cigarettes first appeared in the U.S. more than a decade ago. They have grown in popularity despite little research on their long-term effects. There has been little to no resdearch on whether they can help smokers quit cigarettes.

In recent years, health authorities have warned of an epidemic of vaping by underage teenagers. Of particular concern is Juul, the leading brand. It’s known for its high nicotine content and easy-to-conceal device.

Juul looks a lot like a flash drive.

Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain the addictive chemical nicotine.  Health experts say the chemical is harmful to developing brains.

San Francisco-based Juul is among 800 member companies of the vaping association that filed the lawsuit.

Regulation is taking time

E-cigarettes weren’t mentioned in the 2009 law that gave the FDA power over tobacco products.  It wasn’t until 2016 that the agency expanded its own regulations to include them.

Since 2016, FDA regulators have repeatedly pushed back the timeline.  At one point they wanted to wait until 2022 to review the of vaping products on the market.

Frustrated by the delays, anti-tobacco groups including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, sued the FDA to speed up the process. In June, a federal judge sided with the groups and set a deadline of next May for all companies to submit their products for federal review. The FDA has until next month to appeal the decision.

The lawsuit filed by the vaping group says the FDA has now set five different deadlines.

“It is time for FDA to stop moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game to the detriment of our manufacturers and small businesses,” said executive director Tony Abboud in a statement.

Vaping executives have long said that most companies will not be able to afford to conduct the large expensive studies. Only products that meet FDA standards could be legally sold.

The FDA declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.