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Attorneys General urge FDA to act on e-cigarettes
June 16, 2015
(Augusta, Maine) – Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills is urging the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on its proposal to add e-cigarettes to the Tobacco Control Act, enabling the agency to regulate these nicotine products similarly to other tobacco products.
The FDA proposed the regulation change over a year ago and the public comment period closed August 2014 with no subsequent action from the FDA. As it stands, e-cigarettes remain outside the FDA’s authority to protect public health.
While the FDA has refused to act, Mills said, youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed and so have the public health concerns associated with these products. A University of Michigan study reports that in 2014 more teens used e-cigarettes than any other tobacco product. Last year, there were nearly four thousand calls to poison control centers due to exposure to e-cigarettes, more than double the calls made in 2013.
“It’s hard to believe we are willing to sit back and watch our children develop addictive smoking habits, after we’ve fought so hard to reduce youth smoking and tobacco use in America,” Mills said. “Providing the same regulation of e-cigarettes as we do other tobacco products is critical to stop this new trend in its tracks.”
Mills and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller sent a letter to the FDA today as co-chairs of a national association representing attorneys general (the National Association of Attorneys General or NAAG) expressing frustration at the FDA’s inaction and urging the agency to approve the new regulations as soon as possible to prevent harm to public health and to ensure e-cigarettes are not marketed to the nation’s youth.
Zoeller and Mills serve as chair and vice-chair respectively of the NAAG Tobacco Committee.
In October 2013, Mills and 40 other state attorneys general sent a letter to the FDA asking that the agency issue proposed rules and begin regulating e-cigarettes. After the proposed deeming regulations were issued, 29 attorneys general filed comments on Aug. 8, 2014, supporting the deeming action and recommending that the regulations be strengthened in several respects.
In the recent letter, Zoeller and Mills reiterated the following policy suggestions, urging the FDA to not only include e-cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act, but also:
-Subject e-cigarettes to the same advertising and marketing restrictions as combustible cigarettes. -Ban characterizing flavors. -Require stronger health warnings on e-cigarettes, noting that nicotine is a harmful and addictive product and e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful chemicals. -Prohibit all non-face-to-face sales of tobacco products to prevent youth from purchasing e-cigarettes off of the Internet.
One recent study has shown that minors can easily purchase e-cigarettes online despite state laws requiring online sellers of e-cigarettes to verify their customers’ ages and identities using a government-record database.
While waiting for the federal deeming regulations to take effect, states have stepped up and responded to concerns about electronic cigarettes on their own. The Maine Legislature and several municipalities have grappled with ensuring adequate protections are in place.
“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.”
A copy of the letter is attached.