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.

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"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 DurbinQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe GOP defends Trump judicial nominee with no trial experience Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  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 RockefellerJay 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 MarkeySenate Democrats introduce bill to block Trump's refugee ban FCC votes to limit program funding internet access for low-income communities Two GOP senators oppose Trump’s EPA chemical safety nominee MORE (D-Mass.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownScott Garrett poses real threat to EXIM Bank, small businesses Class warfare fight erupts over tax bills Senators Hatch, Brown have heated exchange on GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ohio), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedArmy leader on waiver report: 'There's been no change in standards' 15 Dems urge FEC to adopt new rules for online political ads Monopoly critics decry ‘Amazon amendment’ 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 HarkinTom HarkinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Distance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds 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."