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U.S. DOT Protects Health by Prohibiting E-Cigarette Use on Planes; White House Must Also Issue Long-Overdue Rule Providing for FDA Oversight

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 02, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Transportation today has taken a necessary step to protect public health and safety by prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes on commercial flights. The existing ban on smoking aboard planes has been implemented with great success and is a landmark achievement for public health. Including e-cigarettes in this policy will further protect the rights of all passengers and crew members to breathe clean air. It will facilitate enforcement of the existing smoke-free policy and protect passengers and airline employees from potential health hazards of exposure to e-cigarette aerosol, which has been found to contain nicotine and other toxic substances.

The DOT’s action addresses just one of the public health and safety challenges posed by e-cigarettes. It is also imperative that the White House act without further delay to issue a long-overdue rule establishing FDA authority over e-cigarettes and other currently unregulated tobacco products. Only the FDA can address the skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes and other critical health issues raised by these products.

The FDA and the White House have taken far too long to act. It has been nearly five years since the FDA first announced its intention to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in April 2011. It has been nearly two years since the FDA issued its proposed rule on April 25, 2014. And it has been more than four months since the FDA sent the final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review on October 19, 2015. By executive order, OMB review is supposed to take no more than 90 days. The Administration’s continuing delay in issuing this overdue rule is inexcusable and puts the health of our nation’s children at risk.

In the absence of regulation, youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. According to the latest government survey, youth e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014 and surpassed use of regular cigarettes. Among high school students, current (past-month) e-cigarette use rose from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent. The CDC estimated there were 2.4 million youth e-cigarette users in 2014.

These trends are not surprising because e-cigarettes are being marketed with the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads that portray e-cigarettes as fun and glamorous, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts. E-cigarettes are also available in more than 7,000 flavors, including flavors such as gummy bear, cotton candy and bubble gum that clearly appeal to kids.

There are also growing reports of e-cigarette explosions that have resulted in serious injuries. Due to the lack of regulation, there are currently no manufacturing standards for these products.

The health and well-being of our nation’s children are endangered by every additional day of inaction by the FDA and the Administration. The time for FDA regulation of e-cigarettes and all tobacco products is long past due.