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NY joins 29-state push for e-cigarette regulation

NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, together with the attorneys general of Illinois, Indiana, and Massachussetts, co-sponsored a letter submitted to the Food and Drug Administration today that was signed by 29 state attorneys general. The letter urges the FDA to strengthen its proposed regulation of electronic cigarettes – or e-cigarettes – with the goal of protecting young people from the harms of nicotine addiction. Among other recommendations, the attorneys general pressed the FDA to prohibit flavors in e-cigarettes, and to restrict advertising and marketing for e-cigarettes in the same manner as for cigarettes.

“E-cigarettes have all the addictive qualities of regular, combustible cigarettes, yet they are completely unregulated by the FDA,” said  Schneiderman.  “While we applaud the FDA’s proposal to start regulating these tobacco products, it falls far short of what is needed to protect our youth.  Each year, electronic cigarette companies spend millions of dollars advertising their product – often on prime-time television -- glamorizing smoking in the same way combustible cigarettes did before those commercials were banned. And each year, more and more youth try electronic cigarettes, exposing themselves to the proven dangers of nicotine.”  

E-cigarettes contain no tobacco but do contain nicotine generally derived from tobacco.  The nicotine is dissolved in a liquid that, when heated, forms a vapor that is inhaled, delivering nicotine to the lungs. While some claim that e-cigarettes may have the potential to help smokers quit using combustible cigarettes, the FDA has not approved them as smoking cessation devices.  Furthermore, the public health implications of these new products are still being researched and there remain concerns that they will be attractive to youth and cause teens to become addicted to nicotine and ultimately to start using cancer-causing combustible products that do contain tobacco. In 2013, e-cigarette advertisements on television reached over 14 million teens, and magazine advertisements reached 9.5 million teens.  In just one year, the five largest e-cigarette companies increased their marketing expenditures by 164%. 

E-cigarettes are a significant and growing part of the cigarette market.  Of greatest concern is research showing an “exponential” increase in e-cigarette use among young people. According to the latest Surgeon General’s report, nicotine exposure during adolescence adversely affects cognitive function and development, potentially resulting in lasting deficits. 

In April 2014, the FDA issued proposed regulations deeming e-cigarettes “tobacco products,” which puts them under the FDA’s regulatory jurisdiction under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), as amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act). Though the FDA’s proposed regulations represent a step in the right direction, the attorneys general argue that they do not go nearly far enough to protect young people from the potential harms of e-cigarettes. Over 7,000 flavors are available for electronic cigarettes, and more are introduced each month.