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Senators Urge the FDA to Restrict the Sale, Distribution and Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes

Suggesting e-cigarettes could be a gateway to traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products, five US Senators have recently sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking for “deeming regulations” and the restricted sale, distribution and marketing of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products to children and young adults.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jack Reed (D-RI), have put their names on a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, asking for the regulation of electronic cigarettes, and urging the agency to “aggressively enforce the authority given by Congress under the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, including restricting the sale, distribution, and marketing of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products to children and adolescents.” The five politicians also cited the result of a recent e-cigarette study conducted by the CDC, which shows the number or e-cig users is growing rapidly, but failed to mention that the majority of these new vapers are actually smokers looking for an alternative to their dangerous habit, and not children and young adults as they suggest in their letter. They express concerns about the fact that e-cigarettes can be legally sold to children, when in reality most states have imposed age restrictions for the sales of electronic cigarettes, and claim that e-cigs in candy and fruit flavors, like bubblegum and strawberry are readily available to youth in shopping malls and online. I suppose fruity and sweet alcoholic drinks are also marketed to kids, right. I’m all for enforcing age restrictions, but don’t go saying electronic cigarette companies are targeting minors, because that simply isn’t true. With millions of smokers out there looking for a tobacco-free alternative, there’s just no logical reason to market to kids.

Here is the original text of the US Senators to the FDA:

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

We write to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue “deeming regulations” asserting the agency’s regulatory authority over tobacco products, such as cigars, pipe tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and dissolvable tobacco products. 

As a result of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, the FDA has made commendable efforts to enhance the regulation of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.  However, we have seen the emergence of novel nicotine products for which FDA has yet to assert regulatory authority, such as electronic cigarettes, which raise concerns regarding safety and marketing to children.

As you know, electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that simulate traditional tobacco cigarettes.  E-cigarettes contain cartridges filled with flavors, chemicals, and the highly addictive substance nicotine, which are vaporized and inhaled by the user.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette use is growing rapidly.  Since 2010, the number of U.S. adults who have tried e-cigarettes has doubled.  In 2011, approximately 21 percent of adults who smoked traditional cigarettes had used electronic cigarettes – a 10 percent increase from 2010.

In spite of the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and limited research on their long-term health effects and risk for increasing use of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are currently not required to be submitted to the FDA for evaluation or approval.  In 2009, FDA conducted a limited analysis of a sample of e-cigarettes.  The analysis found significant quality control issues such as the presence of carcinogens and toxic chemicals, variation in the dose of nicotine in each inhalation, and the presence of nicotine in products claiming to be nicotine-free.  The study raises concerns regarding the safety of these products, the levels of nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals, and the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens. 

Unlike traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes can be legally sold to children and are not subject to age verification laws.  E-cigarettes marketed to appeal to kids in candy and fruit flavors, like bubblegum and strawberry, are readily available to youth in shopping malls and online.  These products risk addicting children to nicotine, which could be a pathway to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of death in the United States.  Every year, tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans – accounting for one in five deaths.  The U.S. Surgeon General, the CDC, and the National Cancer Institute have concluded that smokeless tobacco causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases.  Today, smoking costs the country about $193 billion each year in health care expenses and lost productivity.

We call on the FDA to issue deeming regulations asserting the agency’s regulatory authority over e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.  Once FDA regulates these products, we urge the Agency to aggressively enforce the authority given by Congress under the Family Smoking and Tobacco Control Act, including restricting the sale, distribution, and marketing of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products to children and adolescents.

Source: US Senate

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