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Attorney General Mills Calls on FDA to Regulate E-Cigarettes
September 24, 2013
[Augusta, Maine] – Attorney General Janet T. Mills today urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place restrictions on electronic cigarettes. The rapidly growing use of this new and highly-addictive nicotine product is currently without sufficient safeguards on their production and use or limits on their advertising – especially to youths.
In a letter joined by 39 other State and Territorial Attorneys General, Attorney General Mills urged the FDA to take strong measures to regulate electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, as “tobacco products” under the Tobacco Control Act. E-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread product that is growing rapidly among both youth and adults, are battery-operated products that heat liquid nicotine, which is derived from tobacco plants, into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. The Tobacco Control Act imposes restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco products to youth.
“I am very concerned that e-cigarettes are just the latest effort to introduce kids to nicotine, quickly followed by a lifetime of addiction to deadly tobacco products,” said Attorney General Mills. “E-cigarettes are currently unregulated under federal law, their ingredients are untested and their claims are unproven. Maine merchants should know that e-cigarettes are considered a tobacco product under state law. They must be licensed to sell these products and they cannot sell to anyone under the age of 18. The FDA needs to take action to ensure consistency in enforcement and to prevent the manufacturers from targeting children in their marketing.”
Attorney General Mills asserts that Maine’s definition of tobacco products covers e-cigarettes and precludes retail sales to youths, but federal regulations are not as clear. Noting the growing use of e-cigarettes, and the growing prevalence of advertising, the letter highlights the need to protect youth from marketing and from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products. E-cigarette manufacturers are using marketing tactics similar to those big tobacco used in the last 50 to 100 years to attract new smokers. Celebrity endorsements, television advertising, cartoons, fruit flavors, attractive packaging and cheap prices all serve to encourage youth consumption of these dangerous products. Even though the FDA has banned fruit and candy flavored cigarettes, e-cigarettes are available in a variety of flavors such as gummy bear, chocolate and bubble gum. One manufacturer even uses a cartoon monkey sell e-cigarettes.
A national survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2011 to 2012, the percentages of youth who have tried or currently use e-cigarettes both roughly doubled. The survey estimates that nearly 1.8 million middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes in 2012.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine is highly addictive and has immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses. The lack of regulation of e-cigarettes puts youth at risk of developing a lifelong addiction to a potentially dangerous product that could also act as a gateway to using other tobacco products.
Additionally, some marketing claims that these products do not contain the same level of toxins and carcinogens found in traditional cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. These claims imply that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, when in fact nicotine is highly addictive, the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied, and the ingredients are not regulated and may still contain carcinogens. The lack of regulation puts the public at risk because users of e-cigarettes are inhaling unknown chemicals with unknown effects.
State Attorneys General have fought for years to protect people from the dangers of tobacco products. In 1998, the attorneys general of 52 states and territories signed a landmark agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to recover billions of dollars in costs associated with smoking-related illnesses, and restrict cigarette advertising to prevent youth smoking.
The letter was co-sponsored by Attorney General Mills along with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The states joining the letter to the FDA are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, and Wyoming.