Dems Urge FTC to 'Protect Children' From E-Cigs

Bill would be enforced independent of FDA regulations

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer

WASHINGTON -- Despite admitting that the health implications of electronic cigarettes "are not yet clear," five Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday that could limit or outright ban the segments' ability to market the new products.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D.-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.), and Edward Markey (D.-Mass.) proposed the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act, which would permit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children, and would allow the FTC to work with states' attorneys general to enforce the ban.  

"We cannot risk undoing decades of progress in reducing youth smoking by allowing e-cigarette makers to target our kids," Boxer said. "This bill will help protect our children from an industry that profits from addiction."

Durbin said, "E-cigarette makers are adopting the deplorable marketing tactics once used by tobacco companies to entice children and teenagers into using their addictive product. With fruit and candy flavors and glossy celebrity ads, e-cigarettes makers are undeniably targeting young people. Unfortunately, it's working."

While the legislation vilifies e-cigarette companies, many of the leading U.S. e-cigarette makers are already taking steps to keep their products out of the hands of children, joining programs like We Card and not offering the "fruit and candy flavors" Durbin decried.

Miguel Martin, president of the Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Logic Technologies Inc., said his company would support many of the issues brought up in the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act, including a ban on TV advertising, a ban on internet sales, a flavor ban and a minimum purchase age requirement.

"As a company, we sell and market our products to adult smokers," Martin told CSP Daily News. "From the standpoint that there are reasonable, science-based regulations that would keep the products out of the hands of kids, I'm in complete agreement."

However, Martin--and other e-cig leaders--would like to have a voice in those regulations. "There has to be a collaborative approach between all of the stakeholders to create reasonable regulations," he said, noting that he had not yet been contacted by Boxer or any of the other parties. "Where's the comprehensive approach?"

It's not just the e-cigarette companies that have been excluded from having a say in this action: the proposal comes before the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has had the opportunity to propose its long-awaited regulations on the e-cigarette segment.

Harkin argued the legislation would "complement" the FDA's efforts and "ultimately help prevent e-cigarette manufacturers from targeting our children."

Others argue that it only further muddies the waters.

"I really think the FDA, not the FTC, should weigh in on their position from a science-based approach," Martin said, "and let that be the framework of regulations and the conversation going forward."

Click here to read the full text of the senators' press statement.