A group of Democratic senators called on federal regulators Monday to restrict e-cigarettes and pushed them to act immediately to curb how the devices are advertised.
The effort comes as a growing number of states, cities and municipalities have passed legislation limiting the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces, with more bills brought up every day to bring the devices closer in line with traditional cigarettes.
While senators acknowledged the FDA was “working to regulate” e-cigarettes, they asked the agency to work to thwart e-cigarette companies from claiming their products help people to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
“However, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research does not need this regulation or any new authority in order to investigate companies making unsubstantiated and potentially false therapeutic claims,” six senators wrote in a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Tom Harkin (Iowa) signed the letter. A second letter was sent to the Federal Trade Commission requesting that it take action on how e-cigarettes are marketed.
The lawmakers also raised concerns about a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reveals that about half – 41.7 percent – of the cigarette and e-cigarette exposure calls to poison control centers are now due to e-cigarettes.
“Given the rapid increase in e-cigarette-related exposures, of which 51.1 percent were among young children, developing strategies to monitor and prevent future poisonings is critical,” the April 4 report said.
E-cig advocates have pushed back, saying the products help smokers quit the real thing and they are in no way marketed to the underage. Several major producers of e-cigarettes have said they welcome laws preventing sales to minors.
So what now? While both sides of the debate wait for Office of Management and Budget to finish their review to grant the FDA authority to regulate e-cigarettes, states have taken action.
Here’s a run-down of where e-cigarettes stand around the country:
Hamburg told the Senate Budget Committee last week that she expects a ruling on whether e-cigarettes can be regulated “very soon.”
The rule granting this authority has been under review for five months in the Office of Management and Budget – a fact Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) called “ridiculous” at the hearing.
State bans in public places:
As of April 1, North Dakota, New Jersey and Utah have banned e-cigarettes in workplaces, bars and restaurants, according to a list compiled by the American Non-Smokers’ Rights Foundation.
Ten other states have some level of prohibition in place. For example, Maryland has banned use of e-cigarettes on the MARC commuter rail system.
In addition to cities such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, 139 local governments have passed laws to restrict e-cigarette use in “smoke-free” areas.
Check out the full list of the bans here.