Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Thursday April 24th, 2014, 7:42pm

Durbin Says FDA E-Cigarette Regulations Don't Go Far Enough

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says the new regulations the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has laid out for e-cigarettes do not go far enough to protect children.

“Shame on the FDA. Faced with a responsibility to protect our children from an addiction to a product that can harm them, the FDA strained to create a political compromise," Durbin said in a statement. "Prohibiting sales to kids but doing nothing to protect children from candy flavored marketing in children's venues is an awful outcome. Parents across America lost their best ally in protecting their kids from this insidious product.”

The newly-proposed FDA rule on e-cigarettes bans the sale of the devices to minors, outlaws manufacturers from providing free samples, requires labeling to note that nicotine is in the products, and mandates that the ingredients be labeled on packaging. The rule also prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes in vending machines in all places in which minors are allowed to enter.

Days before the announcement of the proposed federal regulations, Durbin released a report with a group of fellow congressmen about the influence e-cigarette marketing could have on youth. On Thursday, Durbin joined his congressional co-authors, U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jack Reed (D-RI), in a public statement detailing their "disappointment" in the FDA's proposed rule:   

Last week, we joined colleagues in the House and Senate releasing the first comprehensive investigation of e-cigarette marketing tactics: 'Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth.' Our report showed a dramatic recent increase in the marketing of e-cigarettes, with extensive resources being dedicated to reaching youth audiences. From fruity flavors to glamorous celebrity endorsements, every single company surveyed in the report appeared to employ a marketing strategy that targets youth.

Today, after years of waiting for the FDA to act, we are extremely disappointed by its failure to take comprehensive action to prevent e-cigarette companies from continuing to deploy marketing tactics aimed at luring children and teenagers into a candy-flavored nicotine addiction. Prohibiting sales of these products to minors is a positive step, but it isn’t enough. As long as e-cigarette companies continue to take pages from Big Tobacco’s old and cynical marketing playbook, our children will remain vulnerable to the grave dangers of nicotine addiction.

Meanwhile, 46 states across the nation have either proposed or passed regulations on e-cigarettes, according to WestlawNext. Twenty of those states have included e-cigarettes in their existing smoking bans and mandates surrounding cigarette use in public areas and near schools and parks, with just a handful of exceptions. When it comes to the accessibility of e-cigarettes to minors, 41 states have passed or proposed bills that make it illegal to sell the devises to youth as well as for those under the age of 18 to have e-cigs in their possession.

There is pending legislation in Illinois that requires "electronic cigarette cartridges and liquids sold and marketed for the refilling of e-cigarette cartridges ... be sold only in special packaging." The bill also allows the state Department of public Health to determine the requirements for the packaging. The bill passed the House earlier this month and is now in the state Senate. In Chicago, the city council passed an ordinance in January adding the use of e-cigarettes to the regulations of the current smoking ban. The ordinance also outlaws the sale of the devices to minors, requires the products to be placed behind retail counters and mandates that e-cigarette dealers be licensed.

FindLaw conducted a survey recently that found 43 percent of Americans to be in favor of imposing the same regulations on e-cigarettes that traditional tobacco cigarettes are subject to, while 27 percent of those polled oppose that idea. When considering just those who have tried e-cigarettes, 55 percent say the devices should not face the same regulations as tobacco cigarettes.

Some other key findings of the survey of 1,000 U.S. adults:  

  • Only 15 percent of American adults say they have tried e-cigarettes.
  • One-third of people between the ages of 25 and 34 have tried an e-cigarette.
  • The majority of people who have tried e-cigarettes only did so once. Only one out of every five people who have ever tried an e-cigarette now use it more than once a month.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and was researched and compiled through April 23. Experts say the findings show a stark divide in American opinion on the issue of e-cigarette regulation.

“The divide between those that believe e-cigarettes should be subject to the same regulations as tobacco cigarettes, and those who don’t see the need for the same regulation, couldn’t be any clearer,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney-editor at FindLaw.com. “E-cigarette users commonly feel that the devices, with their absence of second-hand smoke, are less of a nuisance, while non-users hold firm that smoking is smoking, regardless of the way it’s done. It will be interesting to see what happens and how the public reacts to the FDA proposals.” 

The public comment period on the FDA's proposed rules begins Friday (search for Docket No. FDA-2014-N-0189) and will be open for 75 days.

Image: AP Photo/Tim Ireland, PA

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