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Attorneys General call for greater protections to curb youth access to e-cigarettes

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on its proposal to add e-cigarettes to the Tobacco Control Act, enabling the agency to regulate these nicotine products similarly to other tobacco products and curb youth access to e-cigarettes.

The FDA proposed the regulation change over a year ago and the public comment period closed August 2014 with no subsequent action from the FDA. As it stands, e-cigarettes remain outside the FDA’s authority to protect public health.

While the FDA has refused to act, Zoeller said, youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed and so have the public health concerns associated with these products. A University of Michigan study reports that in 2014 more teens used e-cigarettes than any other tobacco product, with about 16 percent of high school students reporting use of the products. Last year, there were nearly 4,000 calls to poison control centers due to exposure to e-cigarettes, more than double the calls made in 2013.

“It’s hard to believe we are willing to sit back and watch our children develop addictive smoking habits, after we’ve fought so hard to reduce youth smoking and tobacco use in America,” Zoeller said. “Providing the same regulation of e-cigarettes as we do other tobacco products is critical to stop this new trend in its tracks.”

Zoeller and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills recently sent a letter to the FDA as co-chairs of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Tobacco Committee expressing frustration at the FDA’s inaction and urging the agency to approve the new regulations as soon as possible to prevent harm to public health and to ensure e-cigarettes are not marketed to the nation’s youth.

In October 2013, Zoeller and 40 other state attorneys general sent a letter to the FDA asking that the agency issue proposed rules and begin regulating e-cigarettes. After the proposed deeming regulations were issued, 29 attorneys general filed comments on August 8, 2014, supporting the deeming action and recommending that the regulations be strengthened in several respects.

In the recent letter, Zoeller and Mills reiterated the following policy suggestions, urging the FDA to not only include e-cigarettes under the Tobacco Control Act, but also:

·         Subject e-cigarettes to the same advertising and marketing restrictions as combustible cigarettes.

·         Ban characterizing flavors.

·         Require stronger health warnings on e-cigarettes, noting that nicotine is a harmful and addictive product and e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful chemicals.





·         Prohibit all non-face-to-face sales of tobacco products to prevent youth from purchasing e-cigarettes off of the Internet.

One recent study has shown that minors can easily purchase e-cigarettes online despite some state laws requiring online sellers of e-cigarettes to verify their customers’ ages and identities. Indiana has no such law.

While waiting for the federal deeming regulations to take effect, states have stepped up and responded to concerns about electronic cigarettes on their own.

Zoeller joined a coalition of health experts during the 2015 Indiana legislative session in offering a detailed proposal to curb teen use of e-cigarettes. The main tenets of the proposal included taxing e-cigarettes similarly to tobacco products so that they appeal less to kids and including e-cigarettes in the statewide smoking ban.

Though all of these recommendations were not adopted, the legislature did pass laws requiring that “vape” shops be licensed and that e-cigarette liquid containers use child-resistant packaging. The legislature also recommended that a summer study committee be assigned to further study various issues involving e-cigarettes.

“My focus remains on the public health risks associated with rising e-cigarette use among Indiana’s teens,” Zoeller stated. “In my role as consumer protection advocate, I will continue to urge for stronger regulation of these products with addictive properties and other unknown health effects.”