US proposal would ban e-cigarette sales to minors, allow advertising

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: The US Food and Drug Administration proposed rules on Thursday that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, but would not restrict flavoured products, online sales or advertising, which public health advocates say attract children. The long-awaited proposal, which would subject the $2 billion industry to federal regulation for the first time, is not as restrictive as some companies had feared and will likely take years to become fully effective. Bonnie Herzog, an analyst at Wells Fargo, said the proposal is “positive for industry.” But public health advocates lamented the fact that the proposal does not take aim at e-cigarette advertising or sweetly-flavoured products, which they say risk introducing a new generation of young people to conventional cigarettes when little is known about the long-term health impact of the electronic devices. “It’s very disappointing because they don’t do anything to rein in the wild-west marketing that is targeting kids,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor at the Centre of Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at a briefing on Wednesday that the proposal represented the first “foundational” step toward broader restrictions if scientific evidence shows they are needed to protect public health. That declaration worries some companies. “The window is still open for a more draconian approach,” said Jason Healy, president of Lorillard Inc’s blue Cigs unit, which holds roughly 48 percent of the market. “I think the proposal shows a good science-based reaction here from the FDA, but there is a lot we have to go through during the public comment period.” Lorillard, together with privately-held NJOY and Logic Technology account for an estimated 80 percent of the market. Other big tobacco companies, including Altria Group Inc and Reynolds American Inc, are also entering the market. E-cigarette advocates welcomed the FDA’s light touch. Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University, said a ban on flavourings would have “devastated the industry, as the flavours are a key aspect of what makes these products competitive with tobacco cigarettes.” Similarly, a ban on all e-cigarette advertising “would have given tobacco cigarettes an unfair advantage in the marketplace,” he said. A law passed in 2009 gave the FDA authority to regulate cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco and stipulated the agency could extend its jurisdiction to other nicotine products after issuing a rule to that effect. E-cigarettes use battery-powered cartridges to produce a nicotine-laced inhalable vapour. In the short term, the new rules would prohibit companies from distributing free e-cigarette samples, forbid vending machine sales except in adult-only venues and prohibit sales to minors. Companies would also be required to warn consumers that nicotine is addictive, but no other health warnings would be required. The addiction warning would have to be added no later than two years after the rule is set and the e-cigarette companies would not be allowed to make health claims in any advertising. The proposal is subject to a public-comment period of 75 days.