Senators Introduce Bill to Limit E-Cigarette Marketing to Kids and Teens

No Joe Camel

Worried that e-cigarettes are taking the same marketing path as conventional cigarettes, a group of Democratic senators introduced legislation today that would prohibit the marketing of them to children and teens.

E-cigarettes are under increased scrutiny in Washington. Though currently unregulated by any federal law, a number of cities, like Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles have banned or are considering banning the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants and other public places. Utah, New Jersey and North Dakota banned the use of e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is prohibited. The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether or not to classify e-cigs like tobacco products.

Despite claims from e-cigarette companies they don't target kids or teens, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), aren't buying it, drawing parallels between e-cigarette marketing tactics and the marketing of cigarettes in its heyday. 

It doesn't help the cause of e-cigarettes that they come in candy-like flavors such as bubblegum and strawberry.

"When it comes to the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens, it's 'Joe Camel' all over again," said Sen. Harkin. "It is troubling that manufacturers of e-cigarettes, some of whom also make traditional cigarettes, are attempting to establish a new generation of nicotine addicts through aggressive marketing that often uses cartoons and sponsorship of music festivals and sporting events."

Though the health consequences of e-cigarettes haven’t been proven, some studies have indicated that e-cigarettes could serve as a gateway for children and teens to smoking regular cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the percentage of high school students who tried e-cigarettes doubled in one year. More than 76 percent of those users said they also smoked conventional cigarettes. According to a National Youth Tobacco Survey, 1.87 million middle school and high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012.

"We cannot risk undoing decades of progress in reducing youth smoking by allowing e-cigarette makers to target our kids," Boxer said.

The Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act would give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children and would allow the FTC to work with states' attorneys general to enforce the ad ban.

The bill is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.