Healthcare Business News
Lawmakers called for action by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the electronic cigarette industry

FDA should regulate e-cig marketing, sales, lawmakers urge

By Rachel Landen
Posted: April 14, 2014 - 5:30 pm ET

Lawmakers once again called for action today by the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the electronic cigarette industry, issuing a congressional report showing increased marketing of e-cigarettes to youth.

The report, released by 11 Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, proposes shielding children and teenagers from e-cigarette advertising and restricting availability.

Suggestions include restricting the use of television, radio and social media promotion; requiring age verification and face-to-face sales of e-cigarettes; and printing the health risks of e-cigarettes on the product labels.

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The report and recommendations grew out of a survey that was conducted with nine e-cigarette manufacturers concerning the tactics they use to market their devices. Though many e-cigarettes are designed to mimic the look and feel of traditional cigarettes, and still deliver the highly addictive substance known as nicotine, they are not subject to the federal laws and regulations affecting conventional cigarettes.

In 2013, six of the largest e-cigarette companies spent a total of $59.3 million on marketing, which included social media outreach, free samples at youth-oriented events, and advertisements during events and programs with high youth viewership.

“From candy flavors to rock concert sponsorships, every single company surveyed in this report has employed a marketing strategy that appears to target youth,” Durbin said in a release. “For years, federal regulations prohibiting tobacco companies from targeting young people have helped to protect a new generation of smokers from getting hooked on nicotine. Now, we must close this new gateway to addiction to protect our children.”

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that showed growing use of e-cigarettes among children and teens. E-cigarette experimentation and recent use doubled among U.S. middle and high school students in 2011-12, according to the report. Total sales of e-cigarettes were estimated to have been nearly $2 billion last year, the latest congressional report suggests.

“E-cigarette makers are starting to prey on kids, just like the big tobacco companies,” Waxman said in the release. “With over a million youth now using e-cigarettes, FDA needs to act without further delay to stop the companies from marketing their addictive products to children.”

Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, the FDA has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes, yet despite a 2011 notice of intent to do so, the agency has yet to act.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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