Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 10 of his Congressional colleagues released a report that shows a dramatic increase in the marketing of electronic cigarettes – or e-cigarettes – to youth through candy and fruit flavored products, social media, and sponsorship of youth-oriented events.
The report, “Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth,” was compiled using responses from eight e-cigarette manufacturers and the lawmakers’ investigation of the industry through publicly available information.
“Big Tobacco can create new products with a fresh new image, but its goal remains the same: to market addictive—and harmful—products to children in order to replace the 480,000 customers it loses each year to tobacco-related deaths,” Brown said. “This report is further evidence that the Administration must act quickly to regulate electronic cigarettes. E-cigs contain toxic substances, use addictive nicotine, and are being marketed to children using practices now outlawed for traditional cigarettes.”
In light of the findings in this report, and following investigative reports recently released by the New York Times and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the group of lawmakers called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promptly issue deeming regulations that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority over tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Last week, Brown and U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) met with Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the FDA, to urge the agency to do everything in its power to expand its oversight of Big Tobacco in order to protect consumers from the dangers of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and ensure they aren’t being marketed to children.
Brown released the report today with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee; U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR); and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
The major findings of the report include:
· All surveyed e-cigarette companies use various marketing practices that appeal to youth, such as social media outreach, sponsorships of and free samples provided at events geared toward youth, and radio and television advertisements played during events and programs with significant youth viewership.
· Six of the nine surveyed e-cigarette companies market e-cigarettes in flavors like Cherry Crush, Chocolate Treat, Peachy Keen, and Grape Mint that could appeal to children and teens.
· E-cigarette manufacturers have significantly increased marketing spending, more than doubling marketing expenditures between 2012 and 2013. Last year, six leading e-cigarette companies spent a total of $59.3 million on marketing alone.
· Six of the eight respondents support some form of regulation, including restrictions on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to children and teens.
The group of lawmakers also recommended several steps that regulatory authorities and e-cigarette companies should take to ensure that children and teens are adequately protected from deceptive advertising practices or unsubstantiated claims. These recommendations include:
· E-cigarette companies should take immediate action to prevent the sale of their products to children and teenagers. This should include refraining from the use of television and radio advertisements.
· E-cigarette companies should terminate marketing campaigns that target children and teens, including product promotion through social media and event sponsorships intended for youth audiences.
· The FDA should promptly issue deeming regulations asserting the agency’s authority to regulate e-cigarettes.
· The FDA should issue regulations to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to children and teenagers by requiring age verification and face-to-face sales, and by limiting purchases through vending machines.
· The FDA should implement restrictions on e-cigarette companies marketing to children and teens, and, where appropriate, should work with the Federal Trade Commission to enforce such restrictions.
· The FDA should prohibit misleading product claims on e-cigarettes, and should require clear, uniform labels to inform consumers of the health risks associated with their use.Following a September 2013 CDC report that showed a dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes among children and youth, twelve members of Congress called on nine e-cigarette makers to provide additional information regarding the sale, distribution, labeling, and marketing of their products to children and teens.
The letter was sent to the following companies: NJOY, Lorillard Inc., Reynolds American Inc., Altria Group, Inc., LOGIC Technology, Eonsmoke, GreenSmoke, VMR Products, and Lead By Sales LLC. Every company but one – Lead by Sales LLC, the maker of White Clouds Cigarettes – responded to the lawmakers’ request, and their responses formed the basis of today’s report.