Congressional report urges fda to regulate e-cigarette marketing — cbs news

A new Congressional report released Monday sounds the alarm on marketing of electronic cigarettes, especially efforts made by companies to sell their products to young people.

The report, written by the staff of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, California Rep. Henry Waxman and other lawmakers, underscores the need to regulate the fast growing industry, including the lack of uniform age restrictions and warning labels.

E cigarettes are battery powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution and create vapor that’s inhaled.

While the Food and Drug Administration plans to set marketing and product regulations for electronic cigarettes in the near future, for now, almost anything goes. A 2009 law gave the FDA the power to regulate a number of aspects of tobacco marketing and manufacturing, though it cannot ban nicotine or cigarettes outright.

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The agency first said it planned to assert authority over e cigarettes in 2011 but hasn’t yet. The proposed FDA regulation was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review in October.

«I can’t understand why the FDA is taking this long,» Durbin said in an interview with The Associated Press. «It is clear that the longer they wait, the more young people will be addicted.»

Though the FDA has been slow to regulate electronic cigarettes, the agency has taken measures to bring to light the dangers posed by the devices. Last month the FDA released a report that found e cigarettes liquids are behind a growing number phone calls made to poison control centers throughout the country.

The new Congressional report follows an investigation launched by the congressional delegation in September into the practices of nine e cigarette makers. The staffs surveyed the companies for information on their marketing practices, steps taken to restrict sales to minors, types of warning labels and touting claims of health benefits or reduced exposure to potentially harmful or addictive substances.

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Among the findings, the report says six of the companies surveyed spent more than $59 million on advertising and promotion of their e cigarettes in 2013. Several of the companies reported that their marketing spending more than doubled between 2012 and 2013, and two of the companies’ marketing expenses increased more than 300 percent during that time. Sales of e cigarettes, which are sold under more than 200 brand names, are estimated to have reached nearly $2 billion in 2013.

The report also observes companies have specifically chosen marketing strategies that appeal to teenagers. In particular, makers of e cigarettes use social media to connect with younger consumers. Seven of the companies surveyed by the authors use websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram. In many cases it’s not possible for companies to limit access on social media sites, which means their marketing message is more likely to reach young people.

Durbin said that if the FDA «accepts responsibility for this product as they have for tobacco,» it can start establishing standards for sales and marketing.

«If they fail to do that, I’m afraid it’s going to continue reach into the ranks of our children,» he said.

E-cigarette firms targeting young people, lawmakers say —

WASHINGTON E cigarette companies are preying on young consumers by using candy flavors, social media ads and free samples at rock concerts, according to a report released Monday by Democratic legislators.

A survey of nine electronic cigarette companies found most were taking advantage of the lack of federal regulations to launch aggressive marketing campaigns targeting minors with tactics that would be illegal if used for traditional cigarettes, according to a report released by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D Ill.) and signed by 10 other Democratic lawmakers, including California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Henry A. Waxman of Beverly Hills.

According to the report, based on information from the eight companies that responded, five of the surveyed companies more than doubled their marketing expenditures between 2012 and 2013, regularly promoting e cigarettes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Producers have come up with an array of creative flavors, a practice that was banned for traditional cigarettes by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. E cigarette flavor names include pumpkin spice, chocolate treat, snap! and cherry crush.

E cigarette companies have sponsored popular events and distributed free samples in shows, including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, as well as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. They have employed celebrities to promote their products, including Courtney Love, pop singer Sevyn Streeter and rapper Chris Brown. Streeter and Brown were featured in a music video that included an e cigarette product placement.

«In the absence of federal regulation, some e cigarette manufacturers appear to be using marketing tactics similar to those previously used by the tobacco industry to sell their products to minors,» the report said.

According to a September 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of high school students that had tried e cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012 to 10%.

Because e cigarettes, which produce a nicotine laced vapor, have not yet been deemed a tobacco product by the Food and Drug Administration, they are not constrained by federal regulations that prohibit sales to minors, television and radio advertisements, and free sampling, according to the report.

The FDA is considering labeling e cigarettes as tobacco products, which would place them under the agency’s authority.

«With over a million youth now using e cigarettes, FDA needs to act without further delay to stop the companies from marketing their addictive products to children,» Waxman said.

Twenty eight states have banned e cigarette sales to minors, and most of the surveyed companies said they prohibited vendors from selling their products to children.

But the survey found that policies varied company to company, and only three out of eight had ever conducted compliance checks.

Several of the companies said they avoided running television advertisements specifically targeting young audiences, but they nevertheless aired commercials during prime time shows that rated well among children and teenagers, including the 2013 Super Bowl and the TV show «Breaking Bad,» the report said.

Six out of eight companies surveyed said they favored more regulation, specifically regarding sales to minors. One company, Lead by Sales, which produces White Cloud Cigarettes, did not respond to any of the survey questions.