WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on Big Tobacco’s latest efforts to market toxic and addictive products like electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) to children. The FDA recently announced that it has been granted “deeming regulations” over e-cigs and other tobacco products. Following the announcement, Brown offered the following statement:
“Big Tobacco is always one step ahead of the sheriff, but today, the FDA is finally catching up,” Brown said. “The FDA’s deeming regulations are long overdue, but it needs tougher rules, particularly relating to ploys by Big Tobacco to market products to children. That means banning the use of flavors in e-cigs—like Cherry Crush and Peachy Keen—that are clear attempts to appeal to children. Since e-cigs contain toxic components, addictive nicotine, and have already caused a sharp rise in accidental poisonings, they must be subject to the same regulations as traditional tobacco products. The FDA’s decision to regulate a wider range of products is an important first step. But more must be done to protect our citizens since Big Tobacco will stop at nothing to replace the 480,000 customers it loses each year to tobacco-related deaths.”
Today’s announcement followed a meeting earlier this month between Brown, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and the Commissioner of the FDA, Margaret Hamburg. During their meeting, Brown, Blumenthal, and Merkley urged the agency to do everything in its power to expand its oversight of Big Tobacco in order to protect consumers from the dangers of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and ensure they aren’t being marketed to children. Brown’s efforts followed a shocking report from The New York Times that details the potential harms of e-liquids (liquid nicotine), the main ingredient in e-cigs which is not yet regulated by the federal government, despite a dramatic 300 percent increase in accidental poisonings.
Earlier this month, Brown and 10 of his Congressional colleagues released a report that shows a dramatic increase in the marketing of e-cigs to youth through candy and fruit flavored products, social media, and sponsorship of youth-oriented events. The report, “Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth,” was compiled using responses from eight e-cigarette manufacturers and the lawmakers’ investigation of the industry through publicly available information.
The major findings of the report include:
- All surveyed e-cigarette companies use various marketing practices that appeal to youth, such as social media outreach, sponsorships of and free samples provided at events geared toward youth, and radio and television advertisements played during events and programs with significant youth viewership.
- Six of the nine surveyed e-cigarette companies market e-cigarettes in flavors like Cherry Crush, Chocolate Treat, Peachy Keen, and Grape Mint that could appeal to children and teens.
- E-cigarette manufacturers have significantly increased marketing spending, more than doubling marketing expenditures between 2012 and 2013. Last year, six leading e-cigarette companies spent a total of $59.3 million on marketing alone.
- Six of the eight respondents support some form of regulation, including restrictions on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to children and teens.
Brown has worked to reduce the negative effects of tobacco use for Ohioans, including pressing the FDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to regulate tobacco products to the full extent of their powers, such as the use of graphic warning labels, finalizing their regulatory powers over tobacco products, and ensuring that all tobacco products are properly taxed and controlled. Earlier this month, Brown followed up on a December letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FDA, urging the agencies to take enforcement action against e-cig manufacturers who make unsubstantiated or false claims in their advertising, including unproven assertions that their products help smokers of conventional cigarettes quit.