GREENFIELD — She knew it was coming, but she didn’t know it would be like this.

When Stephanie Rogers opened her electronic cigarettes store in 2012 on State Street in Greenfield, she figured it was only a matter of time until the government started regulating the devices she said helped her quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

That time has come. When Rogers heard the news, she couldn’t help but sigh.

Story continues below gallery

The Food and Drug Administration’s recent announcement that it will begin regulating e-cigarettes, requiring for the first time that the devices and their ingredients — including those already on the market — be reviewed before they can be sold, has local anti-smoking groups celebrating and local vape-pen shop owners shaking their heads.

Guidelines issued recently by the FDA will extend restrictions already controlling traditional cigarettes to a host of other products, including e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco, pipe tobacco and nicotine gels, according to The Associated Press.

Those eager to see smoking rates continue to drop in Hancock County say they hope the new regulations will deter people, especially teens, from taking up “vaping.” But business owners who sell and stand by the devices as a healthy alternative to traditional smoking say the regulations will result in too much government oversight.

“We knew it was coming; we didn’t know it was going to be prohibition,” Rogers said.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes turn nicotine into an inhalable vapor, eliminating the chemicals and tars of burning tobacco. They’ve been on the market in the United States since 2006, and government leaders have been debating how best to regulate them since that time.

While cigarettes have been extensively studied and definitively linked to more than 480,000 deaths each year, e-cigarette risks are still relatively unknown, said Brandee Bastin, coordinator for the Hancock County Tobacco-Free Coalition.

But without the FDA monitoring what goes into e-cigarette liquids or how the products are made, there is no way to know if they are safe or not, Bastin said. Until such determinations are made, Bastin said she’s hesitant to call “vaping” a healthy alternative to traditional smoking.

“Our message has always been it worries us because we don’t know what is in them,” she said.

Bastin said she worries e-cigarettes have ruined the work her organization has done to get Hancock County residents, especially teens, to stop smoking.

Hancock County has fewer adult smokers than the state average, the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps project, which measures the health of counties across the nation, determined. Officials credit coalition-supported smoke-free workplace initiatives and tobacco-free policies for the decrease. Bastin regularly hosts youth programs in county school districts to keep teens from picking up the habit.

But e-cigarette use among teens tripled from 2013 to 2014, a national study found last year. A lack of federal regulations and the availability of fruity vapor pen liquid flavors are to blame, Bastin said.

Beginning in August, retailers will be prohibited from selling tobacco products to anyone under 18 — a law already in place in Indiana. They’ll also be prohibited from placing them in vending machines or distributing free samples, the AP reports.

Though the regulations go into effect this year, it could be three years before consumers notice changes to the vaping industry. Companies have two years to submit information about their product to the FDA and another year while the agency reviews it.

The fees required to comply with the FDA’s requirements range from $3 million to $5 million per product, Roger said. She’s fearful her suppliers won’t be able to afford those fees. If they go out of business, she’ll be forced to close her doors as well, she said.

“They have created regulatory framework that is too expensive for our manufacturers to comply with,” she said. “It’ll shut us down.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

SHARE
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.