E-cigarette sales and marketing to children will soon be banned and flavorings could be restricted by the federal government if two senior congressional Democrats get their way.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry A. Waxman of California want the Obama administration to regulate e-cigarette products the same way as traditional tobacco products. On Monday, they touted the findings of a report they commissioned with several other Democratic lawmakers finding that a number of e-cig brand manufacturers are marketing to children.
"E-cigarettes are a candy-flavored addiction, which is dangerous to our young people across America. It is growing in popularity among children and sadly poses serious public health threats," Durbin said on a conference call. "The report ... makes clear that e-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that own some of them have a determined effort to market their product, to pass out samples and to lure children into this nicotine addiction. It's time for the [Food and Drug Administration] to step up and to regulate this product to protect our children across America."
"We're urging FDA to issue what they call deeming regulations asserting authority to regulate e-cigarettes and applying the same marketing restrictions for these products as they do to traditional cigarettes," Waxman said. "For example, FDA would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to any person under the age of 18, ban youth-oriented e-cigarette marketing and the distribution of free e-cigarette samples and all of the other activities that are intended for a youth audience.
"I think FDA's been moving on it, and [the Office of Management and Budget] is reviewing it. I'm hopeful they'll act soon, but ... this report we're issuing today should be a prod for them to act," Waxman said.
Waxman and Durbin want to restrict the flavoring of e-cigarettes on the premise that children would be more susceptible to try them and become addicted.
The current head of the OMB, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, has been nominated to be the next Health and Human Services secretary. Burwell is expected to easily win confirmation .
Durbin and Waxman said Monday that the regulatory route is the only real way forward.
"I'm a realist, and I know that the likelihood of revisiting this whole issue of FDA authority is ... not very strong, either in the House or in the Senate," Durbin said. "I think the FDA has been given the legislative authority that they need to control this product, and I hope that they'll act on it as quickly as possible, but trying to re-fight the battle over tobacco and e-cigarettes? I don't think that's in the cards."
"I also don't think it's necessary. The Tobacco Control Act gives clear authority to the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products," Waxman said.
Correction 5:06 p.m. An earlier version of this post misstated Waxman's role on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He is ranking member.