RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Several U.S. senators on Wednesday introduced a bill that would curb electronic cigarette marketing while the fast-growing industry awaits regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
The bill is co-sponsored by California Sen. Barbara Boxer, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, both Democrats, and others. It would ban marketing to children based on standards set by the Federal Trade Commission and allow the agency to work with state attorneys general to enforce the ban on advertising. The battery-powered devices heat a liquid nicotine solution and create vapor that's inhaled.
Companies vying for a stake in the electronic cigarette business are reviving the decades-old marketing tactics the tobacco industry used to hook generations of Americans on regular smokes. Those tactics, such as running TV commercials and sponsoring race cars and other events, are raising worries that e-cigarette makers could tempt young people to take up something that could prove addictive.
While the FDA plans to set marketing and product regulations for electronic cigarettes in the near future, for now, almost anything goes.
And Harkin said e-cigarette makers are attempting to create "a new generation of nicotine addicts."
"When it comes to the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens, it's 'Joe Camel' all over again," Harkin said in a statement.
A 2009 law gave the FDA the power to regulate a number of aspects of tobacco marketing and manufacturing, though it cannot ban nicotine or cigarettes outright.
The agency first said it planned to assert authority over e-cigarettes in 2011 but hasn't yet. The proposed FDA regulation was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review in October.
While FDA regulation of these products remains critical, Harkin said the legislation would complement the agency's oversight.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .