FDA Rule Allows E-Cigarette Marketing to Kids

Safety

It was a big news day for children’s advocates as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the long awaited deeming regulations on e-cigarettes. But after a long delay during which e-cigarette manufactures took advantage of no oversight to market and sell their dangerous products to kids, it turns out the FDA rules aren’t the good news for kids that advocates were hoping for.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the rules give the FDA “authority as a science-based regulatory agency to take critical actions to promote and protect the health of the public,” but a lack of research on e-cigarettes limited the areas where FDA chose to exercise its authority. New restrictions will include:

A ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors: sales of e-cigarettes to minors are determined on a state-by-state basis. About 17 states legally allow sales to children.

A ban on giving away free samples: e-cigarette manufacturers and sellers have been handing out free samples of e-cigarettes at youth-centered events such as music festivals and sporting events, according to a report released earlier this month by several members of Congress.

A ban on selling e-cigarettes in some vending machines: this restricts vending machine sales to establishments that never admit minors to keep the tobacco products of our kids’ hands.

Nicotine/ingredient disclosures: e-cigarettes will have to come with a label warning they contain nicotine, an addictive substance, and ingredients. Currently e-cigarettes do not have to disclose any chemical components, which studies have found can include lead and formaldehyde, among other harmful substances.

But notably absent from these restrictions are any limits on marketing to kids with flavors like like bubblegumcaramel apple, and Fruity Pebbles cereal. Not only do flavors attract young smokers, they also attract young children who mistake liquid nicotine for candy. A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found a 200 percent jump in reports of poisoningsfrom liquid nicotine, mostly among children under the age of 5. Just one teaspoon of diluted liquid nicotine can be a deadly dose.

The FDA rule also allows online sales of e-cigarettes to continue, creating an unsupervised environment where minors can easily obtain the tobacco products. Studies have shown that e-cigarettes can be a gateway for teenagers to more dangerous traditional tobacco products, andtheir use continues to rise among teenagers.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a leader in Congressional efforts to regulate e-cigarette marketing to kids, has taken a strong stance today that the FDA proposed rule endangers children by not addressing flavored products: “Prohibiting sales to kids but doing nothing to protect children from candy-flavored marketing in children’s venues is an awful outcome,” the senator said. “Parents across America lost their best ally in protecting their kids from this insidious product.”

We agree. While the proposed rule is important step forward in protecting our children from tobacco products and nicotine poisonings, the FDA has failed to keep our kids safe from e-cigarette marketing tactics aimed at getting them addicted to harmful substances. First Focus will be supporting policies to fix this gap in regulation, and continue our work fighting sales of flavored liquid nicotine.