Lawmakers Call on FDA to Quickly Regulate Electronic Cigarettes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It seems tobacco companies and retailers are not the only ones waiting for regulations on electronic cigarettes.

On Monday, U.S. Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), and John D. Dingell (D-Colo.) sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg urging the agency to act quickly to regulate e-cigarettes.

The letter comes on the heels of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, which found that roughly 3 percent of the teenage respondents said they'd tried an electronic cigarette at least once in 2011. That figure increased to 7 percent last year and translates to nearly 1.8 million students, as CSNews Online previously reported. The study is based on a questionnaire filled out by nearly 19,000 students in grades six through 12 in 2011 and another 25,000 in 2012.

In the letter to Hamburg, the lawmakers make note of the fact that flavored traditional cigarettes are banned; however, the ban does not apply to e-cigarettes. Also unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not subject to a ban on television advertising.

"We recognize that some believe e-cigarettes could advance public health if addicted smokers switch to e-cigarettes from traditional cigarettes. Others advance the idea that e-cigarettes could help provide a pathway to smoking cessation," the lawmakers wrote. "We do not dismiss these ideas, but they need to be proven."

They added that the FDA has the authority under The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to make science-based decisions about products like electronic cigarettes.

"As a first step, FDA needs to assert jurisdiction over e-cigarettes. We know you have been working on these 'deeming' regulations for years. But as the new CDC report makes clear, continued delay comes with a large public health cost," they wrote. "That is why we are writing to urge you to accelerate your efforts. With a million youth now using e-cigarettes, FDA needs to act without further delay to protect public health."

The same lawmakers also sent letters to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce; Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation; and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health to request a hearing to examine the public health threats posed by the increased use of unregulated e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco, and FDA's authority to address the growing problem.

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