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FDA bans e-cigarette sales to minors, rejects industry's safety claims



May 05, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that it will extend its authority to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. The decision deals a significant blow to the e-cigarette industry, a growing arm of Big Tobacco, which has falsely marketed the products as safe for consumers. The agency’s decision gives a stronger impetus for California to act to keep kids safe by taxing e-cigarettes through the tobacco tax initiative on the November ballot.


“The FDA’s decision is a significant victory for public health and sends a strong message to California voters that keeping e-cigarettes out of our kids’ hands will save lives. The $2 tobacco tax on the November ballot will protect kids from a lifetime of addiction,” said Jim DeBoo, campaign manager for Save Lives California, a coalition of health advocates – including the California Medical Association – that has submitted an initiative to increase California’s cigarette tax by $2 a pack, in order to fight teen smoking and fund health care and smoking cessation programs.


The Save Lives California initiative would place an equivalent tax on e-cigarette liquids. Research shows that e-cigarettes don’t help people overcome nicotine addiction, and that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking.


“E-cigarette use by teens has gone up by a factor of 10 in just four years,” said Kristi VandenBosch of the American Lung Association in California's Board of Directors. “This rise threatens years of progress against tobacco addiction, which is the number one cause of preventable death in the country.”


The main federal agency protecting public health has issued “deeming” regulations that, once final, will allow it to provide oversight on this latest form of tobacco products. This will allow the FDA to require e-cigarette product manufacturers to:



  • Register new products with the agency;

  • Include ingredients and health warnings on packaging;

  • Comply with age requirements for tobacco sales, including those from vending machines; and

  • Refrain from offering free samples.


On April 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a disturbing new report showing e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used form of tobacco among teens. The percentage of high school students using e-cigarettes rose from just 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015.


“The CDC data reveals troubling trends about tobacco use among middle school and high school students and emphasize the increasingly urgent need for the FDA to regulate all tobacco products,” said Jim Knox, vice president of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California. “The figures show the e-cigarette industry has been successful at marketing its products to our nation’s youth.”


Save Lives California was also able to convince the California legislature to pass a comprehensive package of tobacco bills during a special session of the legislature this year, including a bill that classifies e-cigarettes like other tobacco products, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday.


For more information on the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, visit www.savelivescalifornia.com.

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