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Attorney General Sorrell Calls on FDA to Regulate E-Cigarettes, Prohibit Sales to Minors

CONTACT: Helen Wagner, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-2508

September 24, 2013

Attorney General William H. Sorrell today, in a bipartisan letter co-sponsored by Massachusetts Attorney Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, and joined by 38 other Attorneys General, called on 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 into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. “To protect our youth we need federal leadership regulating this product,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

The letter urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) to place restrictions on the advertising and ingredients of the highly-addictive product and to prohibit its sale to minors. Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes, although it is illegal to sell them to minors in Vermont. Noting the growing prevalence of advertising, the letter highlights the need to protect youth from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products.
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 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. 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, implying that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking. However, research has established that 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.

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