House Dems call for cigar, e-cigarette regulations over 'kid-friendly' products

A group of House Democrats is calling on the Obama administration to issue new rules for cigars and electronic cigarettes.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday, the lawmakers asked regulators “to act quickly” with new rules for the products, over which the federal government currently has little oversight.

“Manufacturers of e-cigarettes are taking advantage of this regulatory loophole to target children,” wrote Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.). “As a result, some e-cigarette makers are producing products with kid-friendly flavors such as ‘Cherry Crush' and ‘Cookies & Cream Milkshake.’ ”

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1.78 million middle- and high-school students have used e-cigarettes, which vaporize nicotine without producing smoke.

“With over a million youth now using e-cigarettes, FDA needs to act without further delay to protect public health,” the lawmakers added.

The group of legislators also sent a separate letter to Republican leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Waxman is the top Democrat, requesting a hearing on the health risks posed by the tobacco products and the FDA’s authority to impose new rules.

The FDA, which oversees cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, has been working on regulations to expand its oversight to e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco, which are currently exempt from its rules.

Those rules have been under development at the FDA for years.

Bringing the tobacco products under the agency’s jurisdiction could subject them to new fees and restrictions, which some tobacco companies have worried could unfairly single them out with overly restrictive rules.

Health organizations and some tobacco giants have backed the FDA’s efforts, arguing that new regulations would protect the public health and level the playing field for tobacco companies. 

According to the Obama administration’s spring roadmap for new regulations, a proposal to expand the FDA’s oversight could be released in October.

Earlier in September, Senate Democrats used the CDC’s findings to encourage the FDA to “redouble” its efforts.