Lawmakers Pressure the FDA to Regulate E-Cigs With New Report

Marketers accused of targeting kids and teens

A group of 11 Democratic lawmakers in Congress are hoping their new report on e-cigarette marketing will motivate the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly to regulate e-cigarettes the same way it regulates all tobacco.

The 43-page report—"Gateway to addiction? A survey of popular electronic cigarette manufacturers and marketing to youth"—concludes that e-cigarette marketing, currently unregulated, is preying on kids and teens. It was based on information provided by eight e-cigarette companies as part of an investigation launched by the lawmakers last September.

Between 2012 and 2013, e-cigarette marketing more than doubled—last year alone, six makers of e-cigarettes spent a total of $59.3 million, per the lawmakers' report.

All of the e-cigarette marketers use social media outreach and sponsorship of youth-oriented events where samples are distributed, leading lawmakers to conclude that too many kids and teens are being targeted. One company, NJOY, even advertised during the Super Bowl. Even more troubling, six of the nine companies surveyed make their products in appealing flavors like cherry crush, chocolate treat, peachy keen, and grape mint.

"From candy flavors to rock concert sponsorships, every single company surveyed in this report has employed a marketing strategy that appears to target youth," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control & Protection found a dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes among children and youth, leading the group of lawmakers to call for regulations that would prohibit marketing to children and teens and ban flavors that could attract youth. Although the 11 lawmakers have all introduced legislation to prohibit e-cigarette marketing to children and teens, they are running out of time this Congress, leaving the FDA as their best hope to get something done.

"With over a million youth now using e-cigarettes, FDA needs to act without further delay to stop the companies from marketing their addictive products to children," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who compiled a presentation showing how e-cigarette ads were targeting young smokers the same way traditional cigarettes did before they were banned in 1971. 

Lawmakers surveyed nine e-cigarette makers for the report, including NJOY, Lorillard Inc., Reynolds American Inc., Altria Group, Inc., LOGIC Technology, Eonsmoke, GreenSmoke, VMR Products, and Lead By Sales, LLC. Only one of the nine companies, Lead by Sales LLC, maker of White Clouds Cigarettes, did not respond to the lawmakers' request.

Six of the nine companies agreed with the lawmakers that there should be some federal oversight.