Senator Charles E. Schumer, today, urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit e-cigarette manufacturers from targeting children and teens, by banning attractive flavors and regulating marketing tactics aimed at kids. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that showed e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled over the span of one year, and now, nearly 2.5 million teenagers across the country are smoking nicotine-laden e-cigarettes.
In 2014, the FDA issued a proposed rule to regulate e-cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which Schumer strongly backed. The proposed rule will allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes, like they do traditional cigarettes. However, this rule has not yet been finalized. In fact, it has been languishing. The rule includes prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, which Schumer said should be finalized as soon as possible. Schumer is not advocating for an e-cigarette ban for adults, he is pushing the FDA to strengthen proposed regulations to ensure minors are protected from very direct marketing tactics aimed straight at them.
“The alarming new CDC report showing a tripling of the teen smoking rate and that more nearly 2.5 million teens now smoke e-cigarettes should light a fire under the FDA. When it comes to nicotine-laden e-cigarettes and our kids and teens, enough is enough. It’s time for the FDA to stop the e-cigarette smoke screen and crackdown on tactics that addict our kids to a harmful drug like nicotine, putting them on the path to smoking,” said Senator Schumer. “Similar to traditional cigarettes, the FDA should prohibit sales to minors, ban fun-flavored e-cigarettes, and prohibit marketing tactics aimed directly at kids.”
“The new government data showing a dramatic increase in youth e-cigarette use is shocking, but not at all surprising given the kid-friendly flavors like kool-aid and cotton candy and marketing tactics with a blatant appeal to kids. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joins Senator Schumer in calling on FDA to take immediate action to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and to address marketing that targets kids. There is simply no reason the restrictions on conventional cigarette marketing to kids should not apply to e-cigarettes. These youth-oriented flavors and marketing have nothing to do with helping smokers quit and are only about addicting another generation as youth cigarette smoking rates continue to decline,” said Danny McGoldrick, Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that are designed to resemble traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain a mechanism inside the device that heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into a vapor that smokers then inhale and exhale. Unlike conventional cigarettes, however, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco. This key difference has led some to deem e-cigarettes safer to smoke. However, while not all risks are known, some studies have highlighted the dangers of e-cigarettes. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that some e-cigarettes with higher voltage levels can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to fifteen times more than regular cigarettes. In addition, e-cigarettes contain nicotine; the Surgeon General has found that nicotine has negative health impacts on adolescent brain development.
According to a recent report conducted by the CDC, e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014. Among high-schoolers, e-cigarette use increased from 4.5 percent (2013) to 13.4 percent (2014), increasing from approximately 660,000 to two million students. Among middle-schoolers, e-cigarette use increased from 1.1 percent (2013) to 3.9 percent (2014), increasing from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students. According to the study, this is the first time since 2011 that e-cigarette use has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product.
Cigarettes are currently subject to FDA’s tobacco control authority, however, e-cigarettes are not yet regulated by the FDA. In April 2014, the FDA proposed a rule that would allow the agency to exercise its authority to regulate e-cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009; the FDA’s rule not yet been finalized. Specifically, the FDA’s proposed rule includes an age restriction of 18, and prohibits vending machines sales and free samples. In addition, the proposed rule requires manufacturers to list product ingredients, tobacco products containing nicotine to carry an addicting warning label and new or changed tobacco products be approved by the FDA before going to market. According to a 2014 study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, e-cigarette use is associated with higher odds of conventional smoking. Specifically, as it relates to e-cigarette usage among kids, the study concluded that “use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents.” In fact, according to the same study, kids who smoke e-cigarettes are seven times more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes at some point in their lives than those who do not. Schumer said that as kids get hooked on this new gateway device, the progress made on limiting conventional smoking could reverse itself in the coming years.
First, Schumer is urging the FDA to ban ‘fun flavors,’ including candy, fruit and soft-drink flavored e-cigarettes. In 2009, the FDA imposed a law that prohibits the sale of candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes are currently sold in many flavors that are appealing to children, such as: vanilla, gummy bear, chocolate, bubble gum and more. The FDA has said that children are most likely to use flavored tobacco products, however, the proposed rule does not include any oversight regarding e-cigarette flavors.
“The only reason these companies are marketing flavors like gummy bear and cherry crush is to lure our kids in and then addict them to nicotine,” said Schumer. “The FDA needs to be the adult in the room and put an end to these cynical marketing ploys.”
Second, Schumer is urging the FDA to prohibit manufacturers from marketing e-cigarettes to children, similar to the current marketing regulations already in place for regular cigarettes. According to a 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics, exposure to e-cigarette marketing by children aged 12 to17 increased by 256 percent between 2011 and 2013, exposing 24 million children to e-cigarette advertisements.