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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the popularity of electronic cigarettes continues to rise, five U.S. senators are asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue "deeming regulations" asserting regulatory authority over the products.
In a letter to the agency, the lawmakers -- Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) -- also asked the FDA to restrict the sale, distribution and marketing of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products to children and young adults.
"Unlike traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes can be legally sold to children and are not subject to age verification laws," the senators wrote. "E-cigarettes marketed to appeal to kids in candy and fruit flavors, like bubblegum and strawberry, are readily available to youth in shopping malls and online. These products risk addicting children to nicotine, which could be a pathway to cigarettes and other tobacco products."
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gave the FDA regulatory control over tobacco products. To date, the bulk of the regulations have focused on cigarettes -- namely a ban on flavors, advertising restrictions and a ban on the use of "light" to describe a cigarette.
In April 2011, the agency said it would regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, but it has yet to issue any rules. The FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee is slated to meet on April 30 and it is widely believed e-cigarette regulations could be discussed at this meeting.
"As you know, electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that simulate traditional tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain cartridges filled with flavors, chemicals, and the highly addictive substance nicotine, which are vaporized and inhaled by the user," the senators stated in the letter. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette use is growing rapidly. Since 2010, the number of U.S. adults who have tried e-cigarettes has doubled. In 2011, approximately 21 percent of adults who smoked traditional cigarettes had used electronic cigarettes -- a 10-percent increase from 2010."
However, despite the rise in use and limited research on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, they are not currently required to be submitted to the FDA for evaluation or approval, the elected officials added.