E-cigarettes (Photo: Vape/Wikimedia Commons)

The Food and Drug Administration has extended until August 8 the deadline for comments on its plan to expand its regulation of tobacco products to include electronic cigarettes.

Over 60,000 comments have been received so far.

The FDA wants to regulate other tobacco products because the use of tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, according to regulators.

The FDA would deem electronic cigarettes, e-cigarette liquid, cigars, pipe tobacco, gels and waterpipe tobacco subject to its regulatory authority. The only exception would be accessories to tobacco products like humidors, hookah tongs, lighters and charcoal burners.

“Some had advanced views that certain new tobacco products that are noncombustible (such as e-cigarettes) may be less hazardous than combustible products given the carcinogens in smoke and the dangers of secondhand smoke from combustible products,” federal regulators said. “Accordingly, FDA is seeking comment in this proposed rule as to how e-cigarettes should be regulated based on the continuum of nicotine-delivering products.”

One commenter said that “e-cigarettes are the only thing that help me to quit” smoking, and another commenter said regulating e-cigarettes “will only drive up the use of regular cigarettes, by far are more hazardous alternative. Cigarette makers love these regulations because they make it more difficult for people to switch from their product to the new safer alternative.”

Another commenter said, “Leave my freedom alone! There is nothing wrong with smoking an occasional cigar. Who are you to tell what I can or cannot do at my own home?” There are many more form comments seeking exemption of premium cigars from tobacco regulation.

The agency also has expressed concern about e-cigarettes and cigars being marketed with flavors as attractive to kids and teenagers and asked for research on the long-term influence of flavored tobacco products on people starting smoking.

The FDA wants age restrictions for e-cigarettes and other products just as there are for cigarettes.

The FDA was immediately authorized to regulate cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and rolled tobacco under the Tobacco Control Act, and the agency has the authority to bring other tobacco products under its regulatory authority, according to the proposed rule.

The FDA said it could envision nicotine patches that are not marketed for therapeutic purposes being considered tobacco products.

Amaris Elliott-Engel contributes to law.com.