Are FDA-required biometric vaporizers the next frontier in vaping?

Posted by Matt Rowland on

If you’ve recently purchased a new laptop or smartphone, you may have been surprised to learn that it now includes biometric technology allowing the user to unlock the contraction by way of a fingerprint.  Other devices might also employ face recognition technology.  Meanwhile, some forward-thinking inventors and developers are also considering everything from retina scanning to iris recognition and even palm print recognition software.

Is biometric technology the future of vaping? What is the purpose of all these extra bells and whistles anyway?  Do vapers really need these types of gizmos, or are biometric vaporizers just a silly fad?  Unless you are an avid vaper with young children at home, the whole concept might sound a bit foolish.  Unfortunately, we may have very little choice in the matter in the very near future.

FDA-required biometric vaping under consideration

Biometric vape pens are not some outlandish, imaginary product.  Several prototypes already exist, and companies like Vapor Corp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are hoping to make a great deal of money on them.  But are these leaders of industry truly on to something new and exciting, or is something more nefarious going on?

Related Article:  The 2019 Cole-Bishop Amendment is bad news for vaping

Earlier this month, a revised version of the all-but-defunct Cole-Bishop Amendment mysteriously appeared on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.  The original bill attempted to redefine the 2007 predicate date of the FDA deeming regulations requiring about 99% of all vaping products to adhere to a very costly and time-consuming Pre-Market Tobacco Applications process previously only reserved for Big Tobacco.  Sadly, the original amendment also failed to gain significant congressional support.

When the “new-and-improved” version appeared, all references to vaping were essentially eliminated.  The redefined predicate date was still included in the legalese, but it would now only apply to certain sectors of Big Tobacco like cigar and pipe tobacco.  The House version would be sent to the Senate for approval, which would then remove all references to Cole-Bishop from the parent-appropriations bill entirely.

Related Article:  Voting on Cole-Bishop vaping amendment squashed by Senate

However, buried deep within the fine print of the 2019 Cole-Bishop Amendment was a strange and perhaps foreboding entry that might be giving the vaping industry a hint into where the FDA is heading with all of this government oversight.  The few short sentences refer specifically to biometric technology.

“The Commissioner of Food and Drugs 25 shall conduct a study on preventing the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (referred to in this section as 2 ‘‘ENDS’’) by youth. Such study shall include an analysis
 
(1) the potential costs and benefits of using, and requiring the use of, biometric security measures in ENDS;
 
(A) during premarket development;
(B) at the time of sale; and
(C) during postmarket use;
 
(2) the effectiveness of such biometric security measures in preventing usage by youth of ENDS;
 
(3) the potential costs and benefits of requiring such 13 biometric security measures for sales of ENDS made 14 through mail delivery and via the Internet; and
 
(4) alternative technologies that may assist in preventing usage by youth of ENDS.
 
(b) The Commissioner of Food and Drugs shall provide a report on the results of the study under subsection (a) to the Committee on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act.” 
 

While the initial intention behind the Cole-Bishop Amendment was to change the 2007 predicate date, the FDA could theoretically void this entire point of contention quite easily.   If the FDA decides to issue new regulations requiring all vaping devices to implement biometric technology, the predicate date argument essentially fades into obscurity.  The FDA could even move the predicate date forward to the current day, and still nearly 100% of all vaping products currently on the market would be deemed non-FDA-approved by their mere lack of biometrics. 

The FDA is under fire from anti-tobacco groups falsely claiming that vaping is a gateway to teen smoking.  They also take issue with certain kid-friendly advertising practices of some vape-oriented retailers both in the USA and abroad.  But several vaping advocacy groups are striking back, citing scientific research like the 2015 report by Public Health England which claims that vaping is about 95% less harmful than smoking.  A new FDA regulation requiring vaping devices to include biometric technology to prevent underage vaping might be viewed by some political pundits as the perfect political compromise. 

Related Article:  Can self-imposed vaping standards prevent at-will FDA confiscations?

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