Durbin: The Fight Against Big Tobacco Isn't Over Yet

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – On the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) responded to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement that it will further delaying the release of regulations that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority over tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Today, Durbin called for a renewed dedication to the fight against tobacco, smoking, and nicotine addiction:


“Five years ago, when Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, I released a statement that said: the tobacco companies’ days of peddling one of the most deadly products in the world have finally come to an end. At the time, eighteen percent of Illinois children smoked. Just five years later, that number has dropped by twenty-two percent. There is no doubt that the success of tobacco control efforts – culminating in the passage of this landmark legislation – is one of the greatest public health achievements of recent history.”


“Unfortunately, Big Tobacco continues to come up with new and inventive ways to target America’s young people. This includes peddling a candy-flavored nicotine addiction to our kids in the form of e-cigarettes. The FDA failed once more in its mission to protect our children from this insidious product by further extending the comment period for the proposed regulation and delaying release of final regulations that take positive – though limited – steps towards limiting their accessibility to kids. The FDA can’t relent in the face of Big Tobacco. This fight isn’t over yet.”


On April 24, the FDA issued deeming regulations that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority over tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Though the proposed regulations included a ban on sales of e-cigarettes to individuals under eighteen, they did not address the flavoring or marketing of these products to children and youth.

Earlier this week, Durbin spoke at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee reviewing e-cigarette advertising and promotional practices that appeal to kids. During his remarks, Durbin called attention to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, the potential health risks posed by their use, and the aggressive marketing of those products to children and adolescents.

“We have the e-cigarette industry arguing that it’s just an accident that all their advertising and marketing is appealing to so many kids. That’s hard to understand, and I think hard to believe,” Durbin said, “Twenty-four million children have seen their ads. That’s no accident in the world of big business. This is the same battle we’ve fought before, and we know what it leads to: tobacco addiction, disease, and death. I don’t believe there is a case to be made for e-cigarettes being sold to children, and I hope this Committee feels the same way.”


Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.


In April, eleven Democratic lawmakers released a report that showed a dramatic recent increase in the marketing of electronic cigarettes – or e-cigarettes – with extensive resources being dedicated to social media, sponsorship of youth-oriented events, and television and radio advertisements that reach substantial youth audiences. The report, “Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth,” is the first comprehensive investigation of e-cigarette marketing tactics and was compiled using responses from eight e-cigarette manufacturers received by the lawmakers from their investigation into the industry and other publicly available information.


The report was released by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was joined by U.S. Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee; U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR); and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ).