US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin, Boxer, Durbin, Blumenthal, Markey Introduce Legislation To Protect Kids From E-Cigarettes

More than 1.8 Million Middle and High School Students Say They Tried Electronic Cigarettes in 2012 – Bill Would Ban Advertising E-Cigarettes to Children

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) today in introducing the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act to prohibit the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens.

“When it comes to the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens, it’s ‘Joe Camel’ all over again. It is troubling that manufacturers of e-cigarettes – some of whom also make traditional cigarettes – are attempting to establish a new generation of nicotine addicts through aggressive marketing that often uses cartoons and sponsorship of music festivals and sporting events,” Harkin said. “This bill will take strong action to prohibit the advertising of e-cigarettes directed at young people and ensure that the FTC can take action against those who violate the law.  While FDA regulation of these products remains critical, this legislation would complement oversight and regulation by the FDA, and ultimately help prevent e-cigarette manufacturers from targeting  our children.”

“We cannot risk undoing decades of progress in reducing youth smoking by allowing e-cigarette makers to target our kids,” Boxer said. “This bill will help protect our children from an industry that profits from addiction.”

Durbin said, “E-cigarette makers are adopting the deplorable marketing tactics once used by tobacco companies to entice children and teenagers into using their addictive product. With fruit and candy flavors and glossy celebrity ads, e-cigarettes makers are undeniably targeting young people. Unfortunately, it’s working. We must take action now to prevent a new generation from walking down the dangerous path towards nicotine addiction.”

“Tobacco companies advertising e-cigarettes – with flavors like bubblegum and strawberry – are clearly targeting young people with the intent of creating a new generation of smokers, and those that argue otherwise are being callously disingenuous,” Blumenthal said. “This legislation would prevent tobacco companies from advertising to young people, helping to ensure they are not lured down a path of nicotine addiction and premature death. I’m proud to join Senator Boxer in this effort to keep young people tobacco free.”

“E-cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco use by children and teens and should not be marketed to youth, period,” Markey said. “We’ve made great strides educating young people about the dangers of smoking, and we cannot allow e-cigarettes to snuff out the progress we’ve made preventing nicotine addiction and its deadly consequences. I thank Senators Boxer, Durbin, Harkin and Blumenthal for their leadership and look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important bill passed.”

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes and e-cigs, are battery-operated products that simulate traditional cigarettes by converting cartridges of liquid typically filled with addictive nicotine, other additives, and flavorings into vapor inhaled by the user.  Currently, e-cigarettes are not subject to federal laws and regulations that apply to traditional cigarettes, including a ban on marketing to youth. Unlike traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes can be legally sold to children and are not subject to age verification laws.


Despite claims from some e-cigarette makers that they do not market their products to children, e-cigarette manufacturers have adopted marketing practices similar to those long used by the tobacco industry to market regular cigarettes to youth – including flavoring their products in candy or fruit flavors that appeal to children, and using marketing materials featuring cartoon characters reminiscent of those used to market traditional cigarettes to children in previous decades.

The Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act would permit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children, and would allow the FTC to work with states attorneys general to enforce the ban.

The health implications of using electronic cigarettes are not yet clear, and the Food and Drug Administration has warned that consumers of e-cigarette products “currently have no way of knowing” if e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use, or how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use.

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 1.8 million middle and high school students said they tried e-cigarettes in 2012, and a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the percentage of high school students who had tried them had more than doubled in just one year – indicating that e-cigarette companies could be targeting youth through advertisements. More than 76 percent of those users said they also smoked conventional cigarettes, suggesting that for many young people, e-cigarettes could be a gateway to nicotine addiction and smoking of conventional cigarettes.

The bill has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In December, Senators Harkin, Durbin, Boxer, Blumenthal, Markey, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter urging the FTC to investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette manufacturers.

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