Several members of Congress welcomed what they view as a long-overdue rule by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate e-cigarettes, but the initial responses also provided another opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to show how divided they are when it comes to adding new federal oversight.
So far, Democrats are lining up to call for even more action from the federal government to crack down on marketing to minors, while at least one key Republican saw the FDA’s much-anticipated rule as yet another example of “nanny-state mentality”.
“We are disappointed that the final rule does not protect young people from the despicable and insidious tactics this industry has used to lure young people in a lifetime of nicotine addition,” Illinois senator Dick Durbin, currently the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said in a joint statement with Connecticut Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal.
Durbin and Blumenthal singled out the marketing of candy- and fruit-flavoured e-cigarettes as their top target for future action by the federal government.
“It is also concerning that e-cigarettes and other tobacco products –including flavored products – may be allowed to remain on the market for another three years,” they stated.
Other Democrats echoed their sentiment.
“The tobacco regulation rule announced today by the FDA is a critical milestone for public health. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough to quickly address candy and fruit-flavor e-cigarettes – like ‘Gummy Bear’ or ‘Scooby Snacks’ – targeted at our children,” said Oregon Democratic senator Jeff Merkley.
“As a father and as a senator, I urge the FDA to move quickly to get these insidious flavors off the market, and to end advertising aimed at our children.”
Last year, California Democratic senator Barbara Boxer was joined by others in her party in re-introducing the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act. The legislation would permit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine what constitutes marketing to children, and would allow that agency to work with state attorneys general on enforcing a ban.
Boxer’s response to the FDA’s final rule also covered her home state’s decision to boost the smoking age to 21, which has just been signed off by governor Jerry Brown.
“This is a big victory for America’s health,” she said.
“We know the dangers of cigarette smoking, and e-cigarettes contain nicotine and many mystery chemicals that aren’t even listed in the ingredients. The FDA’s rule to regulate e-cigarettes and California’s moves to raise the smoking age and ban e-cigarette use in public places are critical steps to help protect our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.
“Now it is time for the federal government to follow California’s lead and ban the outrageous marketing of e-cigarettes to children.”
Oklahoma Republican representative Tom Cole, however, described the FDA’s final rule as “just another example of the Obama Administration’s regulatory over-reach and nanny-state mentality.”
“This regulation takes an overly-broad approach to regulating these products,” Cole said.
“While we can all agree that tobacco products should not be marketed to children, I still believe that my bipartisan amendment, recently approved by the Appropriations Committee in the Agriculture Appropriations bill, provides the same framework for new tobacco products without needlessly subjecting small businesses to unnecessary regulations and without treating law abiding adults like naïve children.”
Approved by a 31-19 vote, Cole’s amendment would move the so-called grandfather date on vapour products from 15th February 2007 to the effective date of the FDA’s new rule.
– Jim Myers ECigIntelligence Washington correspondent
Graphic: Carl Gamble