A new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule in effect this month could have big implications for e-cigarettes. Questions have swirled around e-cigarettes recently: are they the same as regular cigarettes? Should they be allowed or banned in the workplace? Are they helpful in smoking cessation efforts or harmful?

The new rule extends FDA regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. This means that manufacturers of any of the products in this category need to report product ingredients and be reviewed by the FDA before going to market. The rule signals an increasing move towards regulation, joining the newly-minted federal law banning e-cigarette sales to minors.

For health plan sponsors targeting smoking cessation, it’s time consider whether e-cigarettes should be treated the same as regular cigarettes.

Smoking doubles an individual’s risk for heart disease and stroke, and causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased healthcare utilization and cost (CDC). According to a May 2016 HealthMine survey, 32% of consumers enrolled in sponsored wellness programs admitted to smoking within the last two years. Despite this, 57% say their wellness plan does not offer a smoking cessation program.

Plan sponsors should note that even a small reduction in smoking within a population could have a huge impact on lowering population health care costs. Someone who quits smoking costs $1,000 less to care for per year than someone who continues smoking. With the immediate health benefits and cost savings of smoking cessation, the implications of this updated regulation should be carefully considered.

For the complete article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), click here.

[Photo Credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]