A new bill introduced by US Representative Jackie Speier (D-California) would ban the advertising of electronic cigarettes to children and make e-cigarettes subject to regulations under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
E-cigarettes are marketed as a more healthy alternative to tobacco, heating liquid nicotine into water vapor that is inhaled. Many believe that e-cigarettes are attracting new teen smokers with their bright colors and different flavors, thus creating a new generation of nicotine-addicted adults.
Studies have found nicotine to be highly addictive, whether inhaled as vapor or as a regular cigarette. It directly effects the central nervous system, raising the heart rate as well as blood pressure.
"With advertising that uses sex and sex appeal, youth are drawn to these products in hopes they will make them more glamorous, sexy or appealing," Speier said in a statement. "It's time to regulate these products and protect our children."
Within one year of the legislation's approval, the FDA would need to place the inclusion of nicotine as an ingredient prominently on the packaging, as well as to make the packaging child-proof, writes Cristina Marcos for The Hill.
E-cigarette companies, which currently bring in more than $2 billion in revenue, insist they are not marketing their products to children.
"With flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, and chocolate cake, and devoid of child-proof containers, our kids are literally gobbling these things up," Speier said.
Cory Hatfield, of Central Iowa Electronic Cigarettes in Des Moines, Iowa, took it upon himself to stand up and ask state legislature to pass a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, reports Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa.
"The whole image in the industry could be blown up with people continuing to sell to minors and sell to children," Hatfield says. "They think we're actually trying to market to children, and that's totally not the case."
Hatfield claims most sellers will not sell to children under 18, even though it is not against the law to do so in some states. Currently, 38 states have laws banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and at least a dozen do not allow their use in public places.
The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association agrees with Hatfield, but told Hope Jackson of ABC News that television ads are "an important source of information and education about the rapidly changing technology behind vapor products."
According to the Research Triangle Institute International, television ads featuring e-cigarettes watched by children have jumped by 256% between 2011 and 2013. Of those ads, 80% are from the company Blue eCigs, airing on networks like Comedy Central. The company has since placed restrictions on its ads to be sure they are reaching an audience that is at least 85% adult.
Robert Glatter for Forbes Magazine writes that The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 2011 and 2012, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes more than doubled from 4.7% to 10%. Of the teens who have tried an e-cigarette, 75% have also smoked a regular cigarette, linking the use of the two products together.
"Youth exposure to nicotine can cause changes in the developing brain that favor continued use of nicotine at later stages in life.,"