Aug 08

Lawmakers Call on FDA to Help Limit Youth Access to E-cigarettes

Thirteen Members of Congress this week called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action to protect young people from predatory e-cigarette marketing and distribution tactics. According to the journal Pediatrics, the number of children aged 12 to 17 years exposed to e-cigarette marketing increased by 256 percent between 2011 and 2013. This increased exposure has coincided with a dramatic rise in the use of e-cigarettes by youth and an increased risk of addiction to tobacco products.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the Members wrote: “While FDA’s proposed rule sets the stage for future regulations, strong regulatory actions on marketing to children, e-cigarette flavors, and online sales cannot wait.  FDA has an existing mechanism to protect children now—without waiting years to implement new regulations to accomplish these goals.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as well as U.S. Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Diana DeGette (D-CO).

With just a few days remaining in the public comment period on deeming regulations that would expand FDA’s regulatory authority over e-cigarettes, the Members asked the agency to exercise its existing authority and apply the restrictions imposed on traditional tobacco products to limit youth access to e-cigarettes, including:

  • A ban on marketing to children - FDA should prohibit e-cigarettes marketing aimed at children; current aggressive strategies that should be stopped include the showcasing of glamorous celebrities, the creation of cool cartoons, and the pushing of brands through sexy television and print advertisements;
  • A ban on the use of flavorings - FDA should halt the use of fruit and candy based flavors, like those used in Jolly Rancher candies and Kool-Aid mix, that are clearly meant to attract children;
  • A ban on online sales - Because verification is very difficult to perform accurately for online purchases, FDA should prevent online sales of e-cigarettes in order to keep the product out of the hands of children.

In April, the FDA proposed a rule that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority to regulate e-cigarettes and other liquid nicotine delivery devices.  With regard to these products, the proposed rule prohibits sales to minors, prohibits vending machine sales and samples, and requires a list of product ingredients. The proposed rule, however, fails to prohibit marketing to minors, the use of flavors, or online sales of e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices to minors.

Marketing new tobacco products without FDA authorization is already illegal under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.  The 2008 law also gives FDA the authority to place restrictions on the sale and marketing of newly deemed tobacco products, especially those that pose a risk to children. The letter calls on FDA to exercise this authority and restrict access to e-cigarettes and other nicotine delivery devices that are marketed to children.

Click here to learn more and read the letter.