Forty attorneys general are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to meet its own deadline and regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.
The letter dated Tuesday is co-sponsored by Massachusetts Attorney Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. It says e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through cartoon-like advertising characters and by offering fruit and candy flavors, at the same time they are becoming more affordable and available.
Among those signing the letter is Hawaii Attorney General David Louie. Although state lawmakers banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in June, regulating the product under the auspices of the FDA would allow certain types of advertising to be restricted.
"The way they're publicizing this, they're talking about the resurgence of being cool with cigarettes,” said Louie. “You know, it's an addictive substance and it can lead people to smoke, (and) we're very concerned about that."
The letter says e-cigarettes are being advertised during prime-time television hours and are portrayed as safe alternatives to traditional cigarettes. But it says they are addictive and capable of delivering high doses of nicotine. There’s also concern e-cigs could be a gateway to other tobacco products.
"They get to advertise on television, which tobacco hasn't been able to do for decades, (and) they also advertise on the radio stations," Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the CoalItion for a Tobacco Free Hawaii, said of the electronic cigarette industry.
An industry group, the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, says it agrees e-cigarettes should be regulated as a tobacco product. The group estimates as many as four million Americans currently use battery-powered e-cigarettes, and retail and online sales could reach $1.7 billion by the end of the year.