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Senators call for protections against ad claims by e-cigarette makers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several Democratic U.S. senators wrote to the heads of the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration today, urging the agencies to take enforcement action against e-cigarette manufacturers who make unsubstantiated or false claims in their advertising, including unproven assertions that their products help smokers of conventional cigarettes quit.

Today’s letters were signed jointly by Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Barbara Boxer, of California, Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, Tom Harkin, of Iowa, Edward J. Markey, of Massachusetts, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The Senators highlighted recent studies demonstrating what they say are claims by e-cigarette manufacturers that their products help people quit smoking are not substantiated by current science.

“We urge you to review this evidence and begin to take actions against companies that are making unsubstantiated and potentially false therapeutic claims about products that have not been approved by FDA as safe and effective,” the senators wrote.
In their letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the Senators called on the agency to use its existing authority to investigate manufacturers who are making these false or unsubstantiated claims in their advertising.

“The FTC has not stepped in to protect consumers from the health risks posed by nicotine and other chemicals contained in electronic cigarettes,” the Senators wrote. “We believe that you can and should act immediately to crack down on these false and deceptive claims by e-cigarette manufacturers.”

Today’s letters to the FTC and FDA follow up on a letter the senators sent to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in December, urging the FTC to investigate the marketing practices of e-cigarette manufacturers and to pursue enforcement action against companies that make false or misleading health claims in their advertising.

The senators have also called upon the Office of Management and Budget to expeditiously complete a review of a proposed rule from the FDA that would expand the FDA’s regulatory authority over tobacco products. Last month, in response to reports of a dramatic increase in accidental nicotine poisonings among children, Durbin was joined by six senators in once again calling on the Food and Drug Administration to move quickly to regulate the rapidly evolving market of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products.

“We recognize that the FDA has been working to regulate these products, and that a proposed ‘deeming’ regulation that could clarify that FDA has authority to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products has been pending at the Office of Management and Budget for more than six months,” the Senators noted today. “However, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research does not need this regulation or any new authority in order to investigate companies making unsubstantiated and potentially false therapeutic claims.”

In February, Durbin, Boxer, Harkin, Blumenthal, Markey and Brown introduced the Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act to prohibit the marketing of e-cigarettes to children and teens. The bill has been endorsed by the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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