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Blumenthal, Boxer, Colleagues Praise the Federal Trade Commission for Plans to Increase Scrutiny of E-Cigarette Marketing Practices

FTC Report Will Shed Light on How Companies Use Advertising Dollars to Attract Youth to Nicotine

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) today praised the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for their plans to begin a study of the sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes in America. The data would provide the basis for a report on the expenditures and targeting tactics of e-cigarette companies.

While a welcome move, this step is long overdue. I’m heartened to see the Commission turn its attention to this threat to our young people, but the lack of definitive deadlines is troubling. Swift and effective action is necessary to prevent another generation already in danger of nicotine addiction. I will continue to push aggressively to ensure the Commission completes this work expeditiously – the more quickly they act the more potential we have to save young lives,” said Senator Blumenthal.

“E-cigarette companies have been marketing their dangerous products with virtually no oversight or restrictions for far too long," Senator Boxer said. “This study from the FTC is a critical step towards making sure another generation of Americans isn't hooked on nicotine.”

“E-cigarette makers are adopting the deplorable marketing tactics once used by Big Tobacco to entice children and teenagers into using their addictive product. With fruit and candy flavors and glossy celebrity ads, e-cigarette makers are undeniably targeting young people. Collecting evidence of these marketing practices is a critical step towards stopping manufacturers of these candy-flavored poisons from making deceptive claims and targeting our children,” Senator Durbin said.

“Use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed in recent years - especially among children and teens. And based on the marketing tactics employed by the companies selling e-cigarettes, this alarming trend is no surprise. Our country made incredible progress when it banned the advertisement of traditional cigarettes to youth - but without action, we stand to harm that progress with a new generation of nicotine products. Today, the FTC took an important step toward protecting our youngest consumers by launching a study into the marketing of these dangerous products,” Senator Brown said.

“The FTC is taking an important step in studying the marketing of e-cigarettes and helping the public, especially young people, understand how these nicotine delivery systems are impacting its health. We’ve made great strides educating the public about the dangers of smoking, and we cannot allow e-cigarettes to snuff out the progress we've made preventing nicotine addiction and its deadly consequences, especially for children and teens. That's why we need to ban the marketing of e-cigarettes to youth, and the FDA needs to finalize its long-overdue proposed deeming regulations that would give it authority to make sure the American people are protected,” Senator Markey said.

According to a 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics, exposure to e-cigarette marketing by children aged 12 to17 increased by 256% between 2011 and 2013, exposing 24 million children to e-cigarette advertisements.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2014 National Youth and Tobacco Survey found that in just one year, from 2013 to 2014, e-cigarette use among high school students tripled, from 4.5% to 13.4%. The University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the Future survey showed that more teenagers reported using e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco products in 2014.

In December 2013, Senators Boxer, Durbin, Brown, Markey, Blumenthal, and then-Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) sent a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez asking for an annual marketing disclosure report and urging the FTC to investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette manufacturers. The Senators called on the FTC to provide more information to the public about these practices and to pursue enforcement action against companies that make false or misleading health claims in their advertising.

In April 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first proposed a rule that would give the agency the authority to regulate e-cigarettes. Without a final regulation from the FDA, youth use will continue to grow. Today's announcement shows that the FTC does not need to stand idly by; it can use its existing authority to address marketing that targets children.

The FTC is seeking clearance from the Office of Management and Budget to collect information from the e-cigarette marketers, which is the first step toward conducting the study.  The FTC has published reports on cigarette sales, advertising, and promotion annually since 1967, and similar reports on smokeless tobacco since 1987.