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Rep. Hunter’s Bill Guts FDA Oversight of E-Cigarettes – Shows Manufacturers Don’t Want Any Real Regulation to Protect Kids, Public Health

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced today by U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) would repeal the Food and Drug Administration’s current authority to regulate electronic cigarettes and essentially allow the e-cigarette industry to regulate itself. It’s a classic example of letting the fox guard the henhouse. This legislation shows that the real goal of e-cigarette manufacturers isn’t just to amend FDA regulations, but to repeal them completely and escape any meaningful oversight to protect kids and public health.

The e-cigarette industry has shown that it cannot be trusted to regulate itself. Manufacturers have introduced e-cigarettes in a huge assortment of kid-friendly flavors like cherry crush, gummy bear and cotton candy and copied the tobacco industry’s playbook for marketing to kids, causing youth use of e-cigarettes to skyrocket. Vape shops mix highly addictive nicotine and flavors in back rooms with little quality control. And while proclaiming that e-cigarettes are the answer to the tobacco problem, the industry has failed to conduct the scientific studies needed to determine whether e-cigarettes can actually help smokers quit.

The Hunter bill would ensure that manufacturers can continue to market e-cigarettes in sweet flavors that blatantly appeal to youth. It would also remove any incentives for manufacturers to conduct the research to determine whether e-cigarettes can be effective at helping smokers quit.

This bill would exempt e-cigarettes from even the most common-sense public health protections, including a requirement that manufacturers disclose their ingredients — something food and drug manufacturers do as a matter of course. Why should e-cigarette manufacturers be different? What do they have to hide?

This bill also eliminates other FDA regulations for e-cigarettes that:

  • Prohibit free samples;
  • Restrict vending machine sales to adult-only facilities;
  • Require warning labels about health risks;
  • Require a science-based review of new products – including their toxicity, addictiveness and appeal to youth – before they can enter the market;
  • Require manufacturers to provide sufficient scientific evidence and gain FDA authorization before they can make health-related claims;
  • Authorize the FDA to set standards for e-cigarettes to minimize their health risks and appeal to kids, such as prohibiting the use of flavors that are attractive to youth.

Instead, the Hunter bill would limit the FDA's role to enforcing manufacturing standards set by industry associations such as the American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association. Industry-set standards are not adequate replacements for effective oversight by a public health watchdog like the FDA. This bill would also preempt state and local governments from enacting their own regulations regarding the manufacture, distribution or sale of e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

The Hunter bill continues an all-out assault by e-cigarette manufacturers and their political allies on FDA oversight of these products.

Another bill (H.R. 1136) introduced by Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) would 'grandfather' e-cigarettes already on the market — including the many sweet-flavored products introduced in recent years — and exempt them from FDA review. Tobacco lobbyists are pushing to insert this provision in the spending bill Congress must pass this week. The New York Times has reported that Altria drafted the first of these bills and that it was endorsed by R.J. Reynolds. These tobacco giants make two of the best-selling e-cigarette brands in the U.S. (Vuse and MarkTen).

E-cigarette companies have also filed several lawsuits against the FDA rule. While the Obama Administration vigorously defended the rule, the Justice Department under the Trump Administration recently filed a motion requesting an extension “to more fully consider the issues raised.” The government’s counsel on the motion included Chad Readler, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division, who previously represented R.J. Reynolds when he was a partner at the Jones Day law firm.

Effective FDA oversight is critical to preventing youth use of e-cigarettes and realizing whatever potential they have to help smokers quit regular cigarettes. The Hunter bill would make these goals impossible to achieve.