The Role of Uncertainty in Regulating E-Cigarettes: The Emergence of a Regulatory Regime, 2005-15

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Increasingly, the regulation of public health hazards is subject to an appraisal of the risk of harm to various target populations. However, an expanding body of evidence suggests that when faced with a deficit of information concerning a particular public health risk, governments and regulators do very little to address the risk directly. By examining the case of the first ten years of the availability of electronic cigarettes (2005-15), this article illustrates a scenario in which regulation to manage public health risks does not occur, because there is insufficient information to support a particular course of action. It then argues that when information is sparse, regulators can find themselves in a zone of uncertainty within which regulatory action can be a significant challenge. Related Articles: Givel, Michael S., and Andrew L. Spivak. 2008. “Public Management and the Public Good: The Case of Oklahoma’s 2002 Secondhand Tobacco Smoke Rules.” Politics & Policy 36 (3): 430-447. Harvey, Olivia. 2009. “Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in the United States: Some Policy Options for Industry Development.” Politics & Policy 37 (1): 51-71. Pautz, Michelle C. 2009. “Trust between Regulators and the Regulated: A Case Study of Environmental Inspectors and Facility Personnel in Virginia.” Politics & Policy 37 (5): 1047-1072. Related Media: Baird, Craig. 2016. “Effects of Vaping Up in the Air; City Plans to Follow Provincial Legislation Regarding Smoking Bans.” The Leader-Post (Regina, Canada). May 14, A8. Britton, John, and Ilze Bogdanovica. 2014. Electronic Cigarettes: A Report Commissioned by Public Health England. London: Public Health England. Galewitz, Phil. 2016. “Here’s What’s Clear as FDA Regulates Vaping.” The Washington Post. No. 05/2016.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-429
Number of pages23
JournalPolitics & Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • E-Cigarettes
  • Electronic Smoking
  • Evidence-Based Policy
  • Health Policy Regulation
  • Public Health
  • Regulation Action
  • Regulation Policy
  • Regulatory Regime
  • Risk
  • Tobacco
  • Uncertainty
  • Vaping

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