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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would prohibit the marketing of electronic cigarettes to minors.
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined together to back the "Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act." The measure 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.
"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."
Currently, e-cigarettes are not subject to the 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.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with the Office of Budget and Management on deeming regulations that are widely believed to cover e-cigarettes. However, until the FDA sets such regulations, many state and local governments have taken up the issue, with several passing laws making it illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to minors.
"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," said Harkin, who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"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," he added.
Despite the lack of federal regulation, many electronic cigarette companies have policies in place to keep their products out of the hands of minors.
"Electronic cigarettes are not and have never been intended for minors. We have worked directly with regulators to promote the adoption of common-sense parameters -- like youth bans and age-verification laws -- that have been widely embraced by others in our industry, in addition to retail partners nationwide," said Adam Kustin, vice president of marketing at VMR Products, maker of V2 Cigs. "In accordance with our ongoing efforts to prevent underage access and preclude interest in electronic cigarettes, we also do not market our products in any way, shape or form to minors."
The Senate bill has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
In December, Boxer, Blumenthal, Durbin, Harkin, Markey and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter urging the FTC to investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette manufacturers.