The Food and Drug Administration should restrict the sale and marketing of increasingly popular e-cigarettes, particularly to minors, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller advocates in joining a letter signed by AGs from 36 other states and three U.S. territories.
The officials signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg urging the agency “to take all available measures to meet the FDA’s stated deadline of October 31, 2013, to issue proposed regulations that will address the advertising, ingredients, and sale to minors of electronic cigarettes.”
The battery-operated devices allow the user to inhale a vapor produced by heating liquid nicotine extracted from tobacco leaves. “The nicotine found in e-cigarettes is highly addictive, has immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses,” the letter says.
It also says the FDA should move to ban marketing of e-cigarettes to children, noting “E-cigarettes contain fruit and candy flavors – such as cherry, chocolate, gummy bear, and bubble gum – that are appealing to youth. The FDA has banned such flavors from cigarettes and should take the same action regarding e-cigarettes.”
The letter notes several manufacturers use cartoon monkeys and images such as those from the popular video game “Angry Birds” on reusable vapor jackets “intended to make the e-cigarette desirable or fashionable … to children.” The AGs cites National Youth Surveys that show the number of high school students who tried an e-cigarette rose from 1 in 20 in 2011 to 1 in 10 in 2012.
The letter says sales of e-cigarettes have doubled annually since 2008 and are projected to reach $1.7 billion this year. That would be only a fraction of the roughly $80 billion in annual tobacco cigarette sales, but the increasing use of e-cigarettes is accompanied by a decline in their cost, the letter notes.
“Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes, nor are there any advertising restrictions,” the letter says in urging the FDA to use its authority to extend the application of the Tobacco Control Act to e-cigarettes.
“Some smokers see e-cigarettes as a way to wean themselves off of other tobacco products, but the health effects of these popular alternatives have not been adequately studied and the ingredients are not regulated,” Zoeller said in a statement. “Nicotine is highly addictive and, if e-cigarettes are left unregulated, our state’s youth may use them as a gateway to smoking.”