As the public comment period allowing citizens who want to weigh in on the FDA’s proposal to include electronic cigarettes in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is quickly coming to a close a group of 29 State Attorney Generals have spoken up. These state officials have joined together to ask the FDA to add in a number of specific restrictions to any legislation that they move forward with regarding e cigarettes. They have made their request in the form of an official letter submitted to the Food and Drug Administration earlier today.
The letter makes a series of very specific requests as to how these Attorney Generals would like to see electronic cigarettes regulated. The group has requested that the FDA:
Prohibit characterizing flavors other than tobacco and menthol in e-cigarettes and
other tobacco products;
Restrict the advertising, marketing, and promotion of e-cigarettes in the same respects
it has restricted the advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless
tobacco, as well as strengthening and updating those restrictions;
Strengthen the health warnings for the deemed tobacco products;
Restrict the advertising, promotion, and sale of all tobacco products over the Internet;
Define e-cigarette components and parts and apply the proposed restrictions on age
verification, vending machine sales, and health warnings, regardless of whether such
components and parts contain nicotine;
Include “premium” cigars in the deeming rule; and
Regulate pipe tobacco to prevent avoidance of regulations applicable to tobacco
actually used as roll-your-own tobacco.
While the final two requests target products that include actual tobacco, the remainders are aimed directly at vapor products. Flavors are once again brought into question. The letter itself cites surveys of youth that use numbers that make it seem as if flavors are being targeted specifically at children. Utilizing the same argument the letter goes on to cite surveys that insinuate that electronic cigarette advertising is seen by more minors than adults. In both cases the Attorney Generals fall back on the “save the children” stance that so many opponents of vapor have taken. At no point in the letter do the Attorney Generals address the tens of thousands of smokers who have broken their habit with the aid of electronic cigarettes. They also do not point out the significant numbers and percentages of adult vapers who choose flavored juices. Neither do they at any point show any signs of understanding that there are two sides to every argument. The letter is entirely anti-vapor, positioning electronic cigarettes as being the exact same product as analog cigarettes, and hence suggesting that they be regulated in the exact same manner.
The lack of ability to see two sides of the argument continues with the Attorney Generals suggesting that if flavors are to be allowed that they be limited to options that do not appeal to children. As that is obviously a vague limitation the letter goes on to suggest that the burden of proving that the flavors are not appealing to children be placed on the manufacturer. This comes not too far after the letter states that if flavors are outlawed that packaging and marketing practices should be limited to straight forward identification of flavors, of either tobacco or menthol, and that the law should be passed quickly so that no time or money is wasted in identifying what exact constitutes the concept of “being appealing to children.” In essence if flavors are allowed they want manufacturers to be tied up in red tape, however if they are outlawed the Attorney Generals suddenly support a swift and less bureaucratic approach. While some of this verbiage was aimed at cigars the goal is to lump vapor products, cigars, and pipe and rolling tobacco into the same category as tobacco cigarettes.
The last point that is worth considering is that the letter asks the FDA to limit the marketing and distribution of electronic cigarettes. While we, and nearly every vaper and manufacturer out there support age restrictions, we do not support marketing or distribution restrictions to the extent suggested in the letter. The White House came out at the end of June and supported online sales. Online sales give consumers access to more brands and better selection. Vapers in rural areas will be most affected, as a lack of online sales would limit many to cheap gas station brands and offerings from Big Tobacco. Consumers can currently join wine of the month clubs and have alcohol delivered to their doorstep, yet for some reason having a personal vaporizer and bottle of delicious juice delivered is crossing the line. It simply does not add up.
Based on the requests it seems as if perhaps lobbyists from Big Tobacco and Big Pharma may have gotten to a select group of Attorney Generals. Their requests support a market that is best navigated by large corporations that are already entrenched as opposed to the hundreds of smaller yet emerging vapor brands. The fact that these politicians joined forces and made their opinions known at the end of the public comment period also speaks to well-planned timing. Let the actual consumers talk, to date reports put the number of public comments at over 70,000, and then come in at the end and get the last word. While we are obviously pro-vapor we feel that this tactic is cheap and that Attorney Generals have requested too many limitations. It is hard to believe a group that cites uncertain effects on health as a reason to apply restrictions and in the next breathe asks for health warning labels to be applied to packaging. If one is not certain of the effects then how can one apply restrictions and labels that speak to the effects? Once again, it just doesn’t add up. If you are reading this on the date of publishing and haven’t left a comment for the FDA yet, please do so here.