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AG Cooper calls on FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, prohibit sales to minors

Release date: 9/24/2013

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place restrictions on the advertising and ingredients of the popular and highly-addictive electronic cigarettes, and prohibit the sale of the products to minors.

In a letter signed by Cooper and 39 other Attorneys General, the states urge the FDA to take all available measures to regulate e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” under the Tobacco Control Act. E-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread product that is growing rapidly among both youth and adults, are battery operated products that heat liquid nicotine, derived from tobacco plants, into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

“Many of these products are misleading people, especially minors, into thinking they are a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes,” said Cooper.  “We know there needs to be more research into the ingredients and effect of nicotine, and in the meantime we’ll continue to fight to protect our youth.”

Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes. Noting the growing use of e-cigarettes, and the growing prevalence of advertising, the letter highlights the need to protect youth from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products.

In North Carolina, the legislature added “vapor products,” which would include nicotine e-cigarettes, to a law prohibiting sales of tobacco to youth under 18 and requiring age verification for Internet sales (SB 530).

A survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2011 to 2012, the percentages of youth who have tried or currently use e-cigarettes both roughly doubled. The survey estimates that nearly 1.8 million middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes in 2012.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine is highly addictive and has immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses. The lack of regulation of e-cigarettes puts youth at risk of developing a lifelong addiction to a potentially dangerous product that could also act as a gateway to using other tobacco products.

E-cigarette manufacturers are using marketing tactics similar to those big tobacco used in the last 50 to 100 years to attract new smokers. Celebrity endorsements, television advertising, cartoons, fruit flavors, attractive packaging and cheap prices all serve to encourage youth consumption of the products.

Additionally, some marketing claims that these products do not contain the same level of toxins and carcinogens found in traditional cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. These claims imply that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, when in fact nicotine is highly addictive, the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied, and the ingredients are not regulated and may still contain carcinogens. The lack of regulation puts the public at risk because users of e-cigarettes are inhaling unknown chemicals with unknown effects.

Attorney’s General of Massachusetts and Ohio co-sponsored the letter to FDA.  In addition to North Carolina, the following states and territories also signed:  Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington and Wyoming. 

  Contact:  Jennifer Canada, (919) 716-6413