Knoxville vape shops concerned about new FDA e-cigarette regulations

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KNOXVILLE (WATE/AP) – Hundreds of electronic cigarette brands will have to seek federal permission to stay on the market under new rules that have the potential to upend a multi-billion dollar industry attempting to position itself as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released long-awaited rules that bring the burgeoning industry under federal oversight. Among other steps, the FDA rules limit e-cigarette sales to minors and require new health warnings. In a move vigorously opposed by manufacturers, the agency said manufacturers would have to seek permission to remain on the market under a multi-tiered system. Those that don’t submit the required information could have their products taken off the market.

E-cigarettes turn nicotine into an inhalable liquid vapor. Their benefits and harms haven’t been extensively studied.

Local vape shops have major concerns. At EVape Lounge in Knoxville, they believe the roughly 30 vape shops in Knoxville will not be able to stay open long term. Andrew Beal is a regular customer at the store.

“Personally, I feel it’s a lot cheaper and easier on my wallet,” Beal explained.

According to EVape’s owner, Seth Barber, that cost advantage no longer exists.

“What the FDA’s dropping on us is not a reasonable regulation. This goes from zero to 10,000 mph. The cost involved to stay legal is so high that 90% of these businesses will be gone,” Barber said.

The Knox County Health Department says this is not about money, but about community health. They say the vaping juices contain nicotine, that have several negative side effects. You also have to factor in the chemicals used.

“Consumers need to make an informed decision about how much nicotine is contained in the thing we’re putting in our body. I think people would want to know how much nicotine you are putting in your body. And that’s what this regulation will do. It’s going to reduce who is buying these products and also put regulations so we have more information about what’s contained in them and there are standards for what’s contained in them. So it’s safer for consumers to use,” explained Dr. Buchanan.

Barber believes the changes will have a significant economic impact on the city.

“You’re looking at 150-175 people losing their jobs long term,” Barber said.

Businesses have a 90 day grace period to meet some basic new rules. The full thing would go into effect over the next two years. In Tennessee, anyone under 18 years old is not allowed to vape. But the Knox County Health Department says there are a number of kids under 18 who are vaping.Related:California raises legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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