California Sen. Barbara Boxer, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and three other Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday that would regulate electronic cigarette marketing while the industry awaits guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration.
The Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children, and would allow the FTC to work with states attorneys general to enforce the ban.”
Electronic cigarettes are a tobacco cigarette substitute without the harmful effects of inhaling smoke. The devices work by heating a liquid nicotine solution and creating vapor that the user inhales. Although the devices are recognized as being a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes, the long term effects of using the battery-powered devices are still not conclusive.
Advocates of the devices argue that e-cigarettes will help reduce the amount of tobacco consumption and tobacco-related deaths by offering individuals who are addicted to nicotine a healthier option.
The sponsors of the bill and other opponents of the e-cigarette industry are concerned that the vapor released by the device may have harmful qualities that could impact both the user and individuals in nearby proximity.
This particular bill addresses the fear that e-cigarette advertising is beginning to parallel that of former Camel and other tobacco company’s ads.
“We cannot risk undoing decades of progress in reducing youth smoking by allowing e-cigarette makers to target our kids,” Boxer said in a statement. “This bill will help protect our children from an industry that profits from addiction.”
Boxer’s office admitted that there is “no way of knowing” if e-cigarettes are harmful or not.
“The health implications of using electronic cigarettes are not yet clear,” her office said in a press release.
Although the health implications are not conclusive, Boxer recommended that the device be regulated anyway.
The Democrats supporting the legislation claim that e-cigarettes are a “gateway” drug and will eventually lead users to tobacco cigarettes.
Some medical experts have argued against this assertion.
In an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said that e-cigarettes are one of the most effective ways to cut back on or quit smoking.
“The thing about electronic cigarettes is they replace all the other aspects of smoking,” he told the Free Beacon. “They look like cigarettes, they feel like cigarettes, you hold them, you see the vapor, there’s a throat hit that you get. You can associate the same feelings with smoking.”
The FDA first said it planned to regulate e-cigarettes in 2011 but has not made moves yet. The Boxer-Harkin proposal was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review in October.
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