Late last week, U.S. Representatives Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Tim Bishop introduced the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act to prohibit the advertising of e-cigarettes to children.
Currently, e-cigarettes are unregulated. According to the bill, manufacturers are targeting children and teens through advertising to get them hooked early on nicotine. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, 1.8 million middle and high school students nationwide have tried e-cigarettes, and over 75 percent have also smoked traditional cigarettes. And these numbers are increasing dramatically. In a single year, 2011 to 2012, the percentage of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes more than doubled.
“After decades spent working to curb youth tobacco use and the cigarette advertising targeted at children, we must remain vigilant for new attempts to get kids hooked on nicotine products,” said Mr. Bishop in a press release. “Although the electronic cigarettes that are being marketed may not contain tobacco, they contain many of the other harmful substances found in cigarettes—including nicotine. We cannot allow these products to be marketed toward children.”
Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver chemicals, such as nicotine, in the form of an inhaled aerosol. Currently, unlike traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products, e-cigarettes can be legally sold to minors under the age of 18 in many states. According to the Surgeon General, nine out of 10 smokers began smoking before age 18.
There are serious health concerns with e-cigarettes, which may contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals like diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. Studies have shown that nicotine use negatively affects children’s brain development.
The Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act prohibits advertising, promoting, or marketing e-cigarettes in a manner that increases children’s use of e-cigarettes. The bill would allow for enforcement by state attorneys general and other officials, while also providing a mechanism for states to work with the Federal Trade Commission.