Durbin Calls for Stronger Regulations to Protect Youth from E-Cigarette Products

While the FDA delays finalizing regulations, youth e-cigarette use has skyrocketed

[CHICAGO] – Following a recent report that found e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has not only surpassed conventional tobacco use for the first time, but has tripled in just one year, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize common sense regulations to protect young people from the dangers of these products. This week marks the one year anniversary of the FDA’s proposed rule to extend its regulatory authority over unregulated tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, waterpipes and more. Despite urging from Durbin and other Members of Congress, the FDA has yet to finalize the rules, leaving e-cigarettes virtually unregulated.

“The FDA continues to drag its feet on finalizing common sense regulations to protect children and teenagers from the dangers of e-cigarettes while the number of young people getting hooked on this potentially deadly habit is growing exponentially. My hope is that FDA will act quickly to strengthen and finalize the proposed regulations for the protection of our children,” Durbin said. “I am disappointed the proposed regulations fail to address the use of candy flavorings and other marketing tactics that appeal to children. I hope that the final regulations from FDA take more aggressive action in the ongoing battle against tobacco products and address those issues directly.”

“We are alarmed to find that after only a few years of being on the market, youth use of e-cigarettes has now surpassed youth cigarette smoking,” said Harold P. Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “Federal oversight and regulation of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah, is desperately needed to prevent kids from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco.”

“E-cigarettes pose a major threat to all of our recent progress in lowering the youth smoking rate,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “The FDA has an obligation to act promptly to protect children from these dangerous and untested products.”

When finalized, the FDA regulations would impose many of the same restrictions in place for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, including: a ban on sales to individuals under the age of 18, a ban on free samples, and a ban on vending machine sales. Packaging and advertising would be required to include health warnings and manufacturers would be required to disclose product ingredients to the FDA.

On Friday, Durbin and several of his colleagues sent a letter calling on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Burwell to strengthen and finalize the tobacco deeming regulations without further delay. The letter also called for improvements to on the rules by barring e-cigarette marketing to minors, preventing the sale of candy flavored products, and eliminating online sales. This week, Durbin will co-sponsor legislation to lay out a comprehensive set of tobacco tax and enforcement reforms that would eliminate tax disparities between different tobacco products.

Big tobacco is currently using many of the same tactics they used decades ago: showcasing celebrities, creating cartoons, and pushing their brands through television and print advertisements as ways to generate profits that target young people. A congressional investigation found that from 2012 to 2013, six e-cigarette companies provided free samples at 348 events – including music festivals and motorsport events geared to young people.

Findings from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, released earlier this month, showed for the first time that more American teenagers are using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. More than 2 million high school students and 450,000 middle school students are now using e-cigarettes.