POLITICS: PennAve

Lawmakers say e-cigarette makers target kids

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A group of congressional Democrats released a report Monday accusing the electronic cigarette industry of pushing their products on children and teens.

The report shows a significant increase in recent years in the marketing of e-cigarettes to minors through social media, radio and televisions advertisements, and sponsoring events with young audiences.

"From candy flavors to rock concert sponsorships, every single company surveyed in this report has employed a marketing strategy that appears to target youth," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, who helped spearhead the report.

"For years, federal regulations prohibiting tobacco companies from targeting young people have helped to protect a new generation of smokers from getting hooked on nicotine. Now, we must close this new gateway to addiction to protect our children."

The lawmakers, who say their report is the first comprehensive investigation of e-cigarette marketing tactics, was compiled using responses from eight e-cigarette manufacturers and other publicly available information.

The report found that six of the companies that responded to the lawmakers' survey market their products in flavors that can appeal to children, like cherry, chocolate, peach and grape mint.

It also showed that e-cigarette manufacturers have more than doubled spending on marketing between 2012 and 2013. Last year, six leading e-cigarette companies spent a total of $59.3 million on marketing alone.

"E-cigarette makers are starting to prey on kids, just like the big tobacco companies," said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, a co-sponsor of the report. "With over a million youth now using e-cigarettes, [the Food and Drug Administration] needs to act without further delay to stop the companies from marketing their addictive products to children."

Federal law prohibits the sale of tobacco cigarettes to anyone under 18, but there is no such restriction for e-cigarettes. The limited federal oversight has led to a boom in the e-cigarette industry, with sales doubling annually since 2008 and 2013 revenue expected to reach at least $1.5 billion.

The lawmakers called on e-cigarette companies to "take immediate action" to prevent the sale of their products to children and teenagers, including product promotion through social media and event sponsorships intended for youth audiences.

They also asked the companies to stop all radio and TV advertisements.

Six of the eight companies said they support some form of regulation, including restrictions on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to children and teens, the lawmakers said.

The legislators also have asked the FDA to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and to implement rules to prohibit misleading product claims on e-cigarettes.

The other lawmakers who sponsored the report are Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, John Rockefeller of West Virginia, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Barbara Boxer of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, as well as Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey.

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