By Breanna Deutsch
Seven Senate Democrats are urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes.
Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara Boxer of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon co-signed a letter asking FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg to ban the e-cigarette industry from marketing and selling their products to children.
“It’s time for the FDA to stop the sale of these candy-flavored poisons to our children,” urged the senators in the letter.
They wrote, “Unlike traditional cigarettes and tobacco products, these novel nicotine products are not subject to federal regulations that prohibit sale to minors, restrict marketing to youth, ban products in candy and fruit flavors, and regulate manufacturing practices and ingredients.”
Durbin and the six other Democrats claimed that e-cigarette businesses are targeting youth. They wrote, “In the absence of federal oversight, these products are taking advantage of the regulatory vacuum to market nicotine products to youth and risk addicting a new generation to nicotine.”
The letter came in response to a report published by The New York Times, arguing that the increased popularity of e-cigarettes were the cause of a recent uptick in nicotine poisonings.
However, a review of all the scientific research done on e-cigarettes by Drexel University professor Igor Burstyn concluded “current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern.”
And a growing number of physicians and scientists believe the device could actually have a life-saving impact if it is widely adopted by tobacco smokers as a nicotine substitute.
“Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices offer massive potential to improve public health, by providing smokers with a much safer alternative to tobacco,” says the Royal College of Physicians. “They need to be widely available and affordable to smokers.”
The devices are generally viewed as preferable to tobacco cigarettes because although they contain nicotine, they do not have the carcinogens contained in conventional tobacco cigarettes. The lack of tobacco in the devices is also why e-cigarettes are not currently subject to the same federal laws that regulate tobacco products.
But if e-cigarette critics have it their way, the vapor devices will soon fall under the same strict federal mandates that control the tobacco industry.
In February, Durbin, Harkin, Boxer, Blumenthal and Markey introduced the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act, which would prohibit the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens.
The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to determine what constitutes advertising e-cigarettes to children, and would allow the FTC to coordinate with states attorneys general to enforce the ban.