Washington – In separate letters today, nine members of Congress wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 167 e-cigarette retailers, and 25 companies whose trademarks are potentially being violated urging them to take swift and decisive action to keep poisonous liquid nicotine out of the hands of children.

Earlier this year, a First Focus report uncovered more than 500 liquid nicotine products mimicking popular children’s brands, such as William Wrigley Jr. Company’s Skittles and Quaker Oats’ Cap’n Crunch, being sold online and potentially violating trademark law. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) responded by leading an effort to make the FTC aware, ask affected candy and cereal companies if they are aware of the use of their brand names and how they plan to prevent the issue in the future, and ask liquid nicotine retailers to stop these online marketing practices.

“I commend Congress for acting in the best interest of children and addressing the abusive marketing of this new wave of tobacco products,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. “Regulators must investigate these deceptive business practices and hold retailers accountable for deliberately marketing a tobacco product to children and teenagers. These companies are poisoning our children and creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

Nicotine’s dangerous and addictive properties are well documented. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicates that liquid nicotine poisoning incidents have dramatically increased in the last five years and more than half of all liquid nicotine poisoning calls involve children under the age of 5.

Liquid nicotine poisoning has claimed the life of one child and made thousands of others sick across the country. The CDC has also cited concerns with the tamper-resistance of liquid nicotine packaging, observing that e-cigarette liquids are “a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof.”

In its letter to the FTC, members of Congress urge Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to investigate the “unfair or deceptive acts” by liquid nicotine retailers. Separate letters sent to 167 liquid nicotine retailers ask the businesses to respond to allegations of dubious online marketing practices by Jan. 8, 2016.

“We can’t stand idly by and let our children continue to be the target of this $6 billion industry,” Lesley said. “This is a major public health concern, with our children’s future health at stake.”


First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.firstfocus.org.