Protecting our children from the dangers of tobacco products has always been a challenge—and now Big Tobacco has a new product it is actively peddling to children and teens. E-cigarettes are the new frontier in tobacco companies’ quest to get kids addicted while they are young.
After just a few years on the market, minors’ use of e-cigarettes has now surpassed their use of traditional cigarettes. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s own Center for Tobacco Products, in the past year, e-cigarette use has tripled among teens.
This is in large part because we have failed to regulate these addictive products.
It has now been over a year since the FDA issued proposed tobacco safeguards. These rules would give the agency the same regulatory authority it currently has over cigarettes to other unregulated tobacco products, like e-cigarettes and hookahs.
These safeguards are critical for public health, yet they have languished with the Administration for more than a year. A year is too long to wait.
Until these rules are finalized, e-cigarette companies—which are often owned by traditional Big Tobacco companies—will be able to freely advertise their products to our children.
Now that they are no longer allowed to advertise traditional tobacco products to children, these tobacco companies are taking advantage of the new, unregulated world of e-cigarettes to advertise their products directly to kids.
These companies sponsor youth-oriented events, and air ads on TV and radio aimed at teens. And they’re using new advertising platforms on social media to get to kids where parents often aren’t looking. E-cigarettes and their refill liquids come in thousands of different flavors, like gummi bears, sweet tarts, and fruit loops. Gummi Bears? Fruit Loops? Sweet Tarts? These are candies that young children – not just teens – receive at Halloween.
The shameful e-cigarette marketing tactics employed by tobacco companies are aimed at encouraging a new generation to use tobacco. And as the CDC’s study shows – their tactics are working.
It is past time for the FDA to regulate these dangerous products before more children and teens get hooked on e-cigarettes.
But rather than pressure the FDA to strengthen and finalize these safeguards, the U.S. House of Representatives is moving forward with a plan to exempt most e-cigarettes already on the market from any oversight. This would create a large and dangerous loophole.
E-cigarettes are still tobacco products. Right now they’re being used by the tobacco industry as a gateway cigarette for our children, and that has to stop.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is a U.S. Senator from Ohio.