FTC to Put E-Cigs Under the Microscope

Will gather information from electronic cigarette companies, seek public comment on study

electronic cigarette e-cigarette Federal Trade Commission FTC

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to begin a study of the U.S. sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes. To conduct the study, the agency will issue information requests to e-cigarette marketers and will use the information as a basis for a report on the sales, marketing activities and expenditures in this “new and complex” industry.

Since the mid-2000s, the sale of battery-powered e-cigarettes has grown rapidly in the United States.

The FTC is seeking clearance from the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) to collect information from the e-cigarette marketers, which is the first step toward conducting the study. It will publish a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on the proposed collection of information from approximately five large and 10 smaller e-cigarette marketers.

The topics the FTC seeks comment on the following:

  • The need for the study and the practical utility of the information collected; the accuracy of the commission’s burden estimates; and ways to enhance the quality and utility of the information collected and to minimize the burden of that collection.
  • Whether the FTC should seek to collect data according to 1.) the various types of products sold and given away by industry members; 2.) the various flavors and nicotine strengths of those sales and giveaways; 3.) the various sizes and liquid capacities of disposable e-cigarettes, cartridges and e-liquids sold and given away; and 4.) whether the company sells directly to consumers or to wholesalers and distributors.
  • Whether industry members can provide data that distinguishes between, among other things: 1.) direct sales to consumers (e.g., online sales) and sales to retailers and distributors; 2.) sales and giveaways of disposable e-cigarettes and sales and giveaways of refillable e-cigarettes; and 3.) the various combinations of sizes, flavors and nicotine contents of their e-cigarettes and refill cartridges and e-liquids.
  • Whether the FTC should seek data on state-by-state sales of e-cigarettes and related products.

The FTC will accept public comments until 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. Comments can also be filed electronically.