Senate Democrats are urging the White House Office of Management and Budget to finalize its review of a rule to regulate e-cigarettes.
The rules could transform the environment for e-cigarettes and threaten the industry’s growth. Among the legislators who the signed the letter were Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Addressed to the OMB Director Shaun Donovan, the senators wrote:
In the six years since the passage of the Tobacco Control Act, tobacco and e-cigarette companies have had time to develop new, innovative products, many with candy and fruit flavors, to attract and ultimately addict America’s youth…. It is critical that the Administration take swift and immediate action to finalize the tobacco deeming rule in order to reduce tobacco’s harmful effects on public health, and especially the health of America’s youth.
Their suggestions include clamping down on advertising, adding compulsory health warnings, banning different flavors and introducing a minimum age standard.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims e-cigarette use has tripled among high school students from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014.
Congress gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco in 2009 as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. In April 2014, the FDA published a draft of rules that would bring e-cigarettes and cigars under its supervision but the rules have not yet been finalized.
The letter comes amid growing fears from the e-cig industry that FDA regulations could all but wipe out the industry. Most damaging of all, e-cigarette makers will have to retroactively submit marketing applications for all their products, with the costs running into the millions.
Manufacturers of e-cigarettes could also be banned from advertising the reduced risk from substituting smoking for vaping unless they can convince the FDA otherwise.
The industry is still relatively young, with the first e-cigarette invented in China in 2007. Despite there being close to 20 million Americans regularly using e-cigarettes, the FDA’s regulations could bankrupt the vast majority of producers.
Speaking to The Hill in August, Jan Verleur, co-founder and CEO of VMR Products, said as much as 99 percent of the industry could be wiped out. “This makes it so any product released after the grandfather date would require premarket approval,” said Verleur.