Following Sunday's primetime broadcast of the Golden Globes that featured images of celebrities smoking electronic cigarettes, a group of Democratic senators are pressing for future broadcasts of the awards show to be smoke — and vapor — free.
Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Edward Markey of Massachusetts on Tuesday pressed Golden Globes' broadcaster NBC Universal and the show's sponsor, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, to promise that future broadcasts refrain from showing the so-called e-cigarettes and, by doing so, avoid the "glamorization of smoking and protect the health of young fans."
"Throughout the country and the world, people tune in to watch fashionable actors on the red carpet, enjoy the show, and root for their favorite films and actors," said the senators' statement. "Unfortunately, this year, many young viewers saw notable displays of e-cigarette use throughout the awards show, including the opening monologue and repeated shots of celebrities smoking e-cigarettes."
E-cigarettes use a heater that vaporizes a mixture typically composed of liquid nicotine, propylene glycol and other chemicals. Since they don't burn tobacco, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate them in the same way as traditional smokes.
Most researchers say e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes because tobacco isn't ingested into the lungs and they don't produce second-hand smoke, although few studies have been conducted on their long-term health risks.
But critics, who have accused the industry of heavily marketing their products to children and teens, worry the devices can serve as a gateway to traditional cigarettes for users.
"In light of studies showing that exposure to on-screen smoking is a major contributor to smoking initiation among youth, we are troubled that these [Golden Globe] images glamorize smoking and serve as celebrity endorsements that could encourage young fans to begin smoking traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes," the senators said.
The electronic cigarette industry is booming, with sales doubling annually since 2008 and 2013 revenue expected to reach at least $1.5 billion.
Federal law prohibits the sale of tobacco cigarettes to anyone under 18, but there is no such restriction for e-cigarettes. And with no advertising restrictions and the products coming in an array of flavors such as bubble gum, strawberry and chocolate, critics say the devices increasingly are becoming popular with teens and children.
The FDA, concerned that children and teens have easy access to the battery-powered inhalers, is considering strict new rules that would treat the nicotine inhalers in much the same way as traditional cigarettes.
Responding to the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among young people, last month the four senators and Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Tom Harkin of Iowa called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the marketing practices of electronic cigarettes.
And in September, Durbin, Blumenthal, Brown, Markey, and eight other members of Congress called on nine e-cigarette makers to provide additional information regarding the sale, distribution, labeling, and marketing of their products to children and teens.