Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 29, 2015

Ban on E-Cig Sales, Marketing to Children Pushed by Durbin, Waxman

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

E-cigarette sales and marketing to children will soon be banned and flavorings could be restricted by the federal government if two senior congressional Democrats get their way.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry A. Waxman of California want the Obama administration to regulate e-cigarette products the same way as traditional tobacco products. On Monday, they touted the findings of a report they commissioned with several other Democratic lawmakers finding that a number of e-cig brand manufacturers are marketing to children.

“E-cigarettes are a candy-flavored addiction, which is dangerous to our young people across America. It is growing in popularity among children and sadly poses serious public health threats,” Durbin said on a conference call. “The report … makes clear that e-cigarette companies and the tobacco companies that own some of them have a determined effort to market their product, to pass out samples and to lure children into this nicotine addiction. It’s time for the [Food and Drug Administration] to step up and to regulate this product to protect our children across America.”

“We’re urging FDA to issue what they call deeming regulations asserting authority to regulate e-cigarettes and applying the same marketing restrictions for these products as they do to traditional cigarettes,” Waxman said. “For example, FDA would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to any person under the age of 18, ban youth-oriented e-cigarette marketing and the distribution of free e-cigarette samples and all of the other activities that are intended for a youth audience.

“I think FDA’s been moving on it, and [the Office of Management and Budget] is reviewing it. I’m hopeful they’ll act soon, but … this report we’re issuing today should be a prod for them to act,” Waxman said.

Waxman and Durbin want to restrict the flavoring of e-cigarettes on the premise that children would be more susceptible to try them and become addicted.

The current head of the OMB, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, has been nominated to be the next Health and Human Services secretary. Burwell is expected to easily win confirmation.

Durbin and Waxman said Monday that the regulatory route is the only real way forward.

“I’m a realist, and I know that the likelihood of revisiting this whole issue of FDA authority is … not very strong, either in the House or in the Senate,” Durbin said. “I think the FDA has been given the legislative authority that they need to control this product, and I hope that they’ll act on it as quickly as possible, but trying to re-fight the battle over tobacco and e-cigarettes? I don’t think that’s in the cards.”

“I also don’t think it’s necessary. The Tobacco Control Act gives clear authority to the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products,” Waxman said.

Correction 5:06 p.m.

An earlier version of this post misstated Waxman’s role on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He is ranking member.

  • Eideard

    Do Republicans EVER vote against tobacco?

    • bullet2354

      E sigs are not tobacco.

  • Nate

    Politics 101: When you’re trying to restrict the rights of law-abiding adults for no good reason, always hide behind the supposed best interests of “the children.”

    Senator Durbin apparently has no problem with nicotine gum being sold over the counter with no age restrictions. He apparently has no problem with nicotine patches and inhalers being FDA-approved for use by children as young as 12. I wonder why this could be? Oh, that’s right, he and his party get massive campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical giants that make those products.

    PS – Senator Durbin, if you want to take my strawberry flavored e-liquid, you’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

  • Darryl W

    The point here has nothing to do with health or kids, but has everything to do with tax revenue. If Durban and all the others really gave a damn about the health of our kids, they would find a way to shut down the tobacco industry.

    The rapid growth of the ecig industry has caused tobacco companies to buy and market true nicotine delivery devices like Blu. The feds and the states do not get a cut of this market. It’s really a bit insidious. Studies have shown ecigs to be 95% healthier than cigarettes. By restricting access and limiting the variety of ecigs, the government will be woefully impeding many from moving off of traditional cancer sticks (remember, nicotine is not a carcinogen, it’s the tar and all the other burning crap in cigarettes that kills folks) onto something cleaner.

    • Nate

      It’s worse than a bit insidious. It’s sacrificing public health on the altar of big government spending, and using your children and my children as the scapegoat for doing so.

      “Evil” is the more appropriate term for what’s happening here.

  • ppc

    Democrats are absolutely blowing it on ecigarettes. Waxman for one has been a progressive champion for many years but he is badly misfiring on this issue and frankly it makes me happy he’s leaving, if his judgment is going to be this bad at this point.

    Ecigarettes are the best tobacco harm reduction ever invented. Progressives philosophically have been strong supporters of harm reduction; beyond that they have been in strong favor of science-based legislation and regulation — all science shows ecigs are remarkably safe and do NOT warrant tough regulation.

    Both of these cherished progressive values are being absolutely shredded by this latest Democratic push, and it’s to the detriment of the entire country, if not the world. Ecigarettes can save millions of lives by replacing a terribly risky habit with a relatively harmless one. Democrats would do well to realize many of those lives are Democratic and/or progressive.

    Democrats need to step back on ecigs, NOW.

  • Cal Quelus

    Where laws and regulations are used to restrict ways of doing things to those currently known, those restrictions prevent people from trying new ways of doing things and thus prevent innovation and technological advance.

  • Robert Copia

    Levy Thamba was a 19 year old exchange student from Africa, attending college in Wyoming.
    On March 11, 2014, while in Colorado with friends, Levy Thamba plunged to his death from a 4th floor hotel balcony, after ingesting cookies laced with marijuana. As of Jan1, 2014, Colorado law allows the purchase of marijuana for “recreational use” for those over 21.
    The Medical Examiner listed ”marijuana intoxication” as the contributing factor to the death of Levy Thamba. The investigation did not find evidence of prior drug use or anti-social behavior on the part of Levy Thamba and concluded that the purchase of marijuana was the main reason for the trip. Over 20 states permit ”medical marijuana”, and many states have decriminalized possession of small amounts. Colorado officials admit they gave no thought to the potency or the effects of edible marijuana such as the cookies eaten by Levy Thamba. Decades of research prove that ingesting a large amount of potent marijuana may cause violent, anxious and paranoid behavior.
    Across the USA, medical marijuana is being purchased legally and then resold to youth. Young people, emboldened by “decriminalization” and lax law enforcement, are becoming first time users. You might say that a “GATEWAY” has been created.
    The, 4/6/2014, Washington Post, reports, “due in part to decriminalization and the large supply of high quality marijuana grown in the USA, Wholesale prices, in the last 5 years, have dropped dramatically. Mexican growers have shifted to growing opium poppies that are turned into heroin, “cheap heroin”. Thus, the number of heroin users in the USA has doubled to 700,000.
    The sale of recreational marijuana conflicts with federal law, and the stores could be closed immediately. Medical marijuana could be dispensed in pill or spray form, without the mind altering effects, an even more effective method of delivering the Medical Benefits.
    Neither of these actions have been taken and the marijuana business goes on as usual. The campaign for further legalization continues.
    On April 14, 2014 Illinois Senator Richard Durbin stepped forward and proclaimed, “WE MUST CLOSE THIS NEW “GATEWAY” TO ADDICTION TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN”.
    Mr. Durbin was not talking about the ill-conceived changes, based on greed, to existing laws concerning marijuana. Changes that are responsible for the death of Levy Thamba and the epidemic of “cheap heroin” . He is talking about a little device consisting of a lithium battery,, like the one in your cellphone but not as powerful, that heats a cartridge that contains a mixture of water, propylene glycol, (a legal product found in food, toothpaste, medicine etc.) that makes the fake smoke, food grade flavoring and about 2% of the mixture is pure nicotine. It is called an electronic cigarette, and should really be called a “personal nicotine vaporizer”. This device has
    enabled me, a once hopelessly addicted tobacco cigarette smoker, to be tobacco free for 3.5 years and enjoy drastically.improved health. If the E-Cig was around 20 years ago, perhaps my dear aunt,very intelligent except for her cigarette addiction, could have been spared a horrible passing caused by lung cancer.
    Not one of the front line fighters in the “War on E-Cigs “ and the “Campaign of Fear “ directed against 41.1 million Americans addicted to tobacco, has in anyway taken one action or attempt or suggestion to unwind the catastrophe of which the death of Levy Thamba, who was somebody’s son, is a direct result.
    There has been one unfortunate death caused by accidental poisoning due to E-Cigs. Ivy the dog got hold of ecig cartridges ate them and died. All of the the dozens of hazardous if ingested items, toothpaste, certain plants etc. should be kept out of reach.
    A Google search turned up:
    73,000 results for “Ivy the dog e-cig poisoning.”
    8,000 results for “Levy Thamba marijuana
    Who is directing this propaganda campaign against against e-cigs and why?
    Bloomberg News 2/19/2014 reports, “ GLAXO Memo Shows Drug Industry Lobbying on E-Cigs”.
    Glaxo and Pfizer, 2 pharma giants, sell smoking cessation products, nicotine gum, patches and lozenges that might look like candy to a child. Nicotine inhalers that look like cigarettes, and a spray that contains liquid nicotine along with 6 other chemicals. They also sell anti smoking pills, Zyban (welbutrin) and Chantix. Both are mind altering psychiatric drugs. Both have “Black Box” FDA warnings of dangerous side effects, worsening depression, suicidal thoughts/ actions etc.
    Chantix is number one in adverse event reporting to the FDA. These companies are losing business to the ECIG, and they do not like it.
    Pharma contributed ELEVEN million dollars to politicians in the 2010-11 election cycle and spends 2.4 billion each year n the MEDIA. Thus the “war on e-cig”.
    Both Glaxo and Pfizer have plead guilty to civil and criminal charges brought by the US Dept. of Justice regarding illegal promotion of certain drugs and paid fines.
    Pfizer $2.3 Billion Sept, 2009
    Glaxo $3 Billion July 2012 GLAXO plead guilty to using illegal and fraudulent methods to target children and adolescents through their doctors for the sale of dangerous anti depressants not approved for those under 18.
    It seems wherever there is anti- ECIG talk there is Glaxo money.The Center For Public Integrity reported that Gov. Christie attended a fund raiser, in his behalf at the Washington home of Ed Rogers, a powerful lobbyist for Glaxo. At $3800 a ticket Gov. Christie of New Jersey walked away with $$$. Gov Christie is currently trying to get a 98% TAX on ECIGS passed and put them out of business in N.J.
    The American Lung Association, BIG ECIG haters. Propublica, public records show $2.1 million from Glaxo in 2011-12 to the American Lung Assoc. ETC. ETC.
    For 10 years, prior to his appointment as the head of Tobacco Policy for the FDA, Mitch Zeller was an executive with Pinney, a pharma consulting firm, that for 15 years, had the exclusive contract with GLAXO to promote it’s “quit smoking” products. Mr. Zeller is on record in stating that the FDA has no interest in regulating marijuana.
    Senator Durbin’s last attempt to take out an enemy of BIG PHARMA, VITAMINS, through the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act, would have put the GOV. between you and your vitamins.
    The Durbin Report reveals that the ECIG industry spent 70 billion on advertising and it appears to HIM that they are targeting children.
    Big Pharma spends 2. 4 billion with cartoons that show a gray sky turning blue after you take your SECOND anti-depressant. Beer and liquor ads, everywhere you look or listen. The constantly quoted Center for Disease Control reports 4700 KIDS under 21 die each year from “EXCESSIVE Alcohol Consumption” Neither Big Pharma or Big Liquor seem to bother anyone. Michael Jackson died with Valium and Lorezapam in his system ,not nicotine.
    It “Appears” that Senator Durbin and the Pharmaceutical Industry have “so much in common that it’s a phenomenon”

  • Raz Matazz

    The liberty school recognizes the dangers to liberty posed by collectivists who seize upon temporary crises to centralize government power.

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