By Toni Clarke
WASHINGTON, Sept 24 Top state law enforcement
officials urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday
to promptly issue a promised set of rules governing the sale of
electronic cigarettes, adding to a recent plea by prominent
health organizations for action.
In 2009, the FDA was given authority to regulate cigarettes,
cigarette tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, although not pipe
tobacco, cigars or e-cigarettes, battery-operated products that
produce a vapor containing nicotine that is inhaled.
The law allows the FDA to expand its authority over all
tobacco products, but it must first issue new regulations. The
FDA has said they are in development.
In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, attorneys
general from 41 states asked the agency to "take all available
measures" to issue the rules by the end of October.
"We ask the FDA to move quickly to ensure that all tobacco
products are tested and regulated to ensure that companies do
not continue to sell or advertise to our nation's youth," they
A spokeswoman for the FDA, Jennifer Haliski, said the agency
could not speculate on when it would release the proposed rule.
Earlier this year it gave an estimate of Oct. 31.
All the top tobacco companies including Lorillard,
Imperial Tobacco, Reynolds American and Altria
are now placing bets on e-cigarettes.
The attorneys general's letter comes less than a week after
the American Academy of Pediatrics and 14 other public health
organizations, including the American Lung Association and
American Heart Association, sent a letter to President Barack
Obama asking him to pressure the FDA into issuing the rules.
In July, the FDA said it might place restrictions on menthol
cigarettes following a review that showed the products are
likely to be more addictive than regular cigarettes. The agency
is seeking public comment.
In their letter, the attorneys general said sales of
e-cigarettes have doubled every year since 2008 and are
projected to reach $1.7 billion in 2013. The cost, meanwhile,
has fallen, making them more affordable and attractive to youth,
Moreover, there are no restrictions on advertising
"Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe
alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are
addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight ensuring the
safety of the ingredients in e-cigarettes," their letter said.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences
at Boston University School of Public Health who has conducted
research on e-cigarette use, said that while sales of
e-cigarettes may be going up, even among youth, most users of
e-cigarettes already smoke.
Moreover, he said, many adults are turning to e-cigarettes
to help quit regular cigarettes.
"There is no issue right now that these products are
becoming a gateway to smoking," he said. "Could it happen? Yes.
That's why the FDA regulations are important to make sure they
can't be marketed to minors."