Senate Dems: FDA e-cig regs don't go far enough


Senate Democrats are concerned that children and teenagers could still gain access to candy-flavored electronic cigarettes under new rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The FDA announced Thursday it is considering regulations that would prohibit e-cigarette manufacturers from selling or marketing to people under the age of 18, but the rules stop short of banning candy-flavored e-cigs, which critics say are attractive to children.

"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," Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (D-Ill.) and several other senators said in a joint statement.

"Prohibiting sales of these products to minors is a positive step, but it isn't enough," the senators wrote. "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."

Sens. Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyRegulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage Markey, Paul want to know if new rules are helping opioid treatment Oil spill tax on oil companies reinstated as part of budget deal MORE (D-Mass.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownLawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves Dem senator shares photo praising LeBron James after Laura Ingraham attacks Trump gets recommendation for steep curbs on imported steel, risking trade war MORE (D-Ohio), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedFBI chief: Trump hasn't specifically directed me to stop Russian meddling in midterms Live coverage: FBI director testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee Senate Dems demand answers on cost of Trump's military parade proposal MORE (D-R.I.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) joined Durbin in criticizing the FDA's proposal.

Separately, Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinTrump should require federal contractors to follow the law Orrin Hatch, ‘a tough old bird,’ got a lot done in the Senate Democrats are all talk when it comes to DC statehood MORE (D-Iowa) also called for the FDA to ban candy-flavored e-cigarettes before the agency moves forward with the rule.

"I urge the agency to keep their foot on the gas and take strong action towards ensuring that they are kept out of the hands of young people — in particular, by including in the finalized rule a prohibition against candy flavors used to entice kids to become addicted to their products," Harkin said.

The FDA admits it is concerned that e-cigarette manufacturers are marketing to children.

"If a kid starts with e-cigarettes, nicotine being addictive, it creates a heightened vulnerability that they will go on to use other tobacco products, as well," FDA Commission Margaret Hamburg said in a press call.

Hamburg said the agency is taking strides to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of children by making it illegal for manufacturers to sell e-cigs to minors, as well as prohibiting them from distributing free samples or selling them in vending machines that are located in buildings where children have access.

However, the rule does not ban candy-flavored e-cigarettes, which the American Heart Association called the "Trojan Horse of nicotine." 

"We believe the rule falls short by allowing industry to continue to advertise e-cigarettes, often with attractive and seductive flavorings, and increases the risk that we will raise yet another generation addicted to nicotine," American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said in a statement.

The e-cigarette industry agrees that e-cigarettes should not be sold or marketed to children, but says it should be able to sell candy-flavored products to adults.

"Flavor options are important to the consumer experience," the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association said in a press release. "We continue to oppose any restriction on the availability of e-liquid; therefore, we support the proposal in the current FDA document, which does not call for flavor restrictions."