The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) released a letter on Tuesday calling for the US Food and Drug Administration to implement new regulations on electronic cigarettes. The letter comes from a group of 40 various attorneys general and pushes for the FDA to stick by their original dates and establish e-cig regulations by October 31 of this year. According to the letter, the NAAG hopes to see regulations imposed on e-cig ingredients, advertising, and sales to minors. To put it simply, the NAAG wants e-cigs treated very similarly to tobacco products.
Here are some important snippets of the letter:
”State Attorneys General have long fought to protect their States’ citizens, particularly youth, from the dangers of tobacco products… With the protection of our States’ citizens again in mind, the undersigned Attorneys General write to highlight the need for immediate regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread, addictive product… We ask the FDA to move quickly to ensure that all tobacco products are tested and regulated to ensure that companies do not continue to sell or advertise to our nation’s youth.”
The letter goes on to claim that e-cigs are intentionally marketed to target underage teens and even children pointing out cartoon characters in ads and fruity flavors in the nicotine cartridges. The letter particularly takes issue with e-cigarette “skins” that change the appearance of standard e-cigs with child-friendly images like the characters from the game Angry Birds.
Forbes ran an article about this new push for FDA regulation and made some really interesting points about the whole situation. According to writer Daniel Fisher, the e-cig market is booming partially because these products are not limited by the same advertising rules and restrictions that have hindered tobacco companies since the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.
Fisher went on to point out that the 1998 agreement equates to $6 billion to state treasuries every single year. If the FDA would bow to the requests of the attorneys general, it would mean big changes for the whole market.
“That would mean no more Super Bowl ads, and restrictions on sales to minors. It also might put a dent in the galloping increase in e-cig sales, which threatens to undermine the master settlement and the finances of the states that signed it,” said Fisher.
The FDA is certainly facing a great deal of pressure from both sides of the e-cigarette debate. Right now, the FDA has said that only e-cigs marketed for therapeutic reasons are subject to regulation by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. But it seems that many e-cig critics would prefer for all e-cigs to be policed under the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
For now, the debate seems to hinge on whether e-cigarettes are equivalent to tobacco in terms of risk and danger. While there have been dozens of studies that show e-cigs are less harmful, not everyone is convinced. Stanton Glantz, the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco agrees that e-cigs are less harmful than regular cigarettes, but he still seems unsure of how they should be handled in terms of regulations. “No question that e-cigarettes deliver fewer (toxic substances) than conventional cigarettes, but the question of how much less is still not clear,” he said.
While Glantz suggested conducting new randomized trials on a massive scale, others are content with the current research as proof that e-cigs are good products that assist smokers in giving up tobacco. Lauren Odum, pharmacist at the University of Missouri at Kansas City said that she has looked at the research and felt that there was a lot of convincing evidence that e-cigarettes were a “very helpful” for smokers that needed help giving up their old cigarettes.
Ultimately, we will have to wait and see how the FDA responds to Tuesday’s letter from the NAAG. Do you expect the FDA to roll out stern new e-cig regulations in October?