Attorney General Beau Biden has joined 39 other state attorneys general in calling for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the marketing and sale of electronic cigarettes. In a letter sent this week to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the attorneys general urged the agency to use its authority under the federal Tobacco Control Act to restrict advertising of the increasingly widespread product and to ban its sale to minors.
“While we have made hard-fought progress in communicating the health hazards of nicotine and reducing cigarette use among young people, I’m concerned about the explosive growth in their use of addictive e-cigarettes,” Biden said. “Action must be taken to regulate the marketing and sale of these products, especially to children, in order to protect public health.”
E-cigarettes are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine by heating liquid nicotine, along with flavors and other chemicals, into a vapor inhaled by the user. The nicotine found in e-cigarettes is highly addictive and is toxic in high doses. According to the letter sent yesterday by the attorneys general, e-cigarettes are being marketed “as recreational alternatives to real cigarettes. Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight ensuring the safety of the ingredients in e-cigarettes.”
E-cigarette sales have doubled every year for the past five years, and unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal advertising restrictions or age restrictions on their sale. Moreover, children are lured into buying the products, which are sold in fruit and candy flavors such as cherry, chocolate, gummy bear, and bubble gum, and they are branded to appeal to children, including images from the popular video game Angry Birds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 10 high school students reported that they had tried an e-cigarette last year, double the number from 2011, and 1.8 million middle and high school students said they had tried e-cigarettes in 2012.