Industry: E-cig warning labels ‘premature’

A group representing the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry insisted Friday that calls for tough warning labels on the devices are "premature," arguing that the products appear safer than conventional cigarettes. 

The American Vaping Association's assertion comes in response to calls this week from a group of Senate Democrats for more stringent labeling restrictions than those set out in proposed Food and Drug Administration regulations floated earlier this year.

"Their proposal is premature," the industry group said. "Hastily designed warnings could lead tobacco users to believe that e-cigarettes have similar risk profiles as combustible cigarettes."

Research into the health effects of e-cigarettes is ongoing, though proponents argue they are likely less hazardous than conventional brands since they produce a nicotine vapor instead of smoke and tar.

However, congressional Democrats say the growing and largely unregulated industry is now making up its own warnings. 

"Media reports have recently highlighted that in the absence of a clear federal standard, e-cigarette manufacturers owned by big tobacco companies are beginning to concoct their own health warnings about their products that lack uniformity and are not comprehensive in listing all of the health threats the products pose," six Democratic senators charged this week in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. 

Included on the letter were Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.). 

The FDA's forthcoming "deeming" rule would put e-cigarettes under the agency's regulatory supervision under the authority of the 2009 Tobacco Control Act. The draft regulations do require labels, reading, "WARNING: This product contains nicotine derived from tobacco. Nicotine is an addictive chemical." 

That doesn't go far enough for the lawmakers, who also accuse the industry of marketing its wares to children. 

"We support requiring a label on nicotine's addictive properties, but we ask the FDA to pursue requirements for more extensive warnings that address health risks that e-cigarettes pose," they wrote to Hamburg. 

The industry, however, warned the FDA to move cautiously on such warnings. 

Unnecessarily threatening warning labels, the group argues, could lead to unintended consequences.

"Studies are still ongoing, but so far the science indicates that e-cigarettes are far less hazardous than traditional cigarettes and are also effective in helping smokers to kick the habit," the association said. "Discouraging the use of smoke-free, tobacco-free e-cigarettes would therefore impede the senators' goal of reducing the toll of tobacco."

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