By Benjamin Goad - 03/27/14 01:43 PM EDT
Legislation introduced Thursday by a group of House Democrats would bar the burgeoning electronic cigarette industry from marketing its products to kids.
A companion to legislation offered last month in the Senate, the bill comes in response to research showing an explosion in e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students in the United States.
The $1 billion-plus e-cigarette industry is mostly unregulated at the federal level. Public health advocates and some lawmakers, however, are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to bring the industry under its supervision via authority granted to the agency by the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.
Pending regulations have sat under review at the White House since October. FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg told lawmakers at a budget hearing Thursday that they would be issued “soon.”
In the meantime, critics have complained that e-cigarette firms are marketing their wares to youths. They point to cotton candy and pancake-flavored brands as evidence that the industry is glamorizing the products.
“The e-cigarette industry has revived past tactics used to promote tobacco products to America’s youth,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), one of the bill’s five authors. “In essence, they are using ‘Joe Camel’ campaigns in the era of Facebook and Instagram.”
Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), Cheri Bustos (D-Il.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) are also sponsoring the legislation.
The bill is designed to prohibit advertising, promoting, or marketing e-cigarettes in any manner that increases children’s use of e-cigarettes.
If enacted, it would empower the Federal Trade Commission to determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children, and then enforce a ban on the practice in coordination with state attorneys general.
The legislation also has backing from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.