HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Forty attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday urging the agency to meet its own deadline and regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.
The letter, co-sponsored by Massachusetts Attorney Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, says e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through cartoon-like advertising characters and by offering fruit and candy flavors, much like cigarettes were once marketed to hook new smokers.
“Basically, they’re selling and peddling addiction, a lifelong addiction,” Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau.
At the same time, e-cigarettes are becoming more affordable and more widely available as the use of regular cigarettes decline as they become more expensive and less socially acceptable.
Jepsen is among the state AGs who’ve signed the letter calling for more regulations on the nicotine product.
“I’m at a loss as to why the FDA has not stepped up already. This bipartisan coalition of attorneys general is pushing hard to make sure that they do,” he told Schneidau.
Jepsen added a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that last year, nearly two million middle school and high school students nationwide tried out electronic cigarettes.
“It really is something the FDA should already be on top of at this point and they’re not,” he said.
Electronic cigarettes are metal or plastic battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Users get nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are being advertised during prime-time television hours at a time when many children are watching, according to the letter, which has led a surge in sales and use.
The health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied and the ingredients are not regulated, the letter said.
The letter urges the FDA to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to issue proposed regulations that will address the advertising, ingredients and sale to minors of e-cigarettes. The decision has been delayed in the past.
Tom Kiklas, co-founder and chief financial officer of the industry group, the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, agrees that e-cigarettes should be regulated as tobacco products. The group represents dozens of companies involved in the manufacture and sales of e-cigarettes.
“We’re in agreement with responsible restrictions on the marketing and sales of these products,” including a ban on marketing aimed at children, he said. “What I cringe at is when e-cigarettes get demonized.”
New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also signed the letter.
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