House Dems: Delay of e-cigarette regulation hurts kids

Electronic cigarette companies are taking advantage of the Obama administration’s delays in regulating their products to market to children, a group of House Democrats is warning.

The three lawmakers are accusing e-cigarette companies of taking advantage of a “loophole” in current regulations that allows them to escape the type of oversight given to the rest of the tobacco industry.

The longer e-cigarette companies can take advantage of advertising techniques pioneered by Big Tobacco a generation ago, they say, the more children will be at risk of getting hooked on the products.

“We believe FDA action is essential to ensure that e-cigarette makers stop targeting the nation’s youth,” Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) wrote in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

“The companies’ practices show that they are not capable of self-regulation. FDA must act now to protect children from their unscrupulous marketing campaigns.”

The three lawmakers are the top Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittees on Oversight and Health. They say that e-cigarette companies have taken a page out of the cigarette industry’s playbook to target teenagers by sponsoring sports and music events and using celebrity spokespeople and cartoon images.

“We recognize that there is a debate about the value of e-cigarettes as an alternative for addicted adults,” they wrote. “But whatever the merits for adult smokers, these addictive products should not be used by teenagers.”

The FDA is currently working on regulations that could extend many of the same restrictions that currently apply to traditional cigarettes to the electronic products, which produce vapor, not smoke.

That draft regulation is currently under review at the White House, which has until the end of the year to release it to the public.

The e-cigarette industry’s lobbying muscle has built up ahead of the expected new rules. 

This week, a trade group is sending members to Washington to tell congressional staff why their products should be treated differently than traditional cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes aren't the same as traditional tobacco products, they say, and undue regulation would stifle innovation in the young market.