FDA Must Have More Tobacco Oversight, Say AAFP, Other Groups

September 23, 2013 12:30 pm News Staff

The AAFP and 15 other health care organizations are calling on President Obama to release a proposed rule that would give the FDA the authority to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, such as cigars, that do not fall under the agency's regulatory oversight.

[Stock photo of male smoking e-cigarette]

In a Sept. 19 letter(3 page PDF) to the president, the AAFP and the other organizations point out that the FDA announced its intent to take action on the proposed rule more than two years ago, but it has failed to do so, creating a delay that has led to "very real public health consequences."

In June 2009, Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law. The legislation gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products. "As a result, the tobacco industry is no longer able to use candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes with characterizing flavors such as strawberry, grape, pineapple, chocolate and vanilla to attract and addict our nation's children to cigarettes," says the letter, which was signed by the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Preventive Medicine, among others.

The Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes, as well as smokeless and roll-your-own tobacco products, and it allows HHS to extend the FDA's authority to other tobacco products. However, lack of FDA action means that, currently, there is limited federal oversight of these products and few restrictions to protect the public against their risks, according to the letter.

The use of e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a vapor form, is increasing among the nation's youth. The letter cites data from the CDC that indicate from 2011-2012, the number of students in grades 6-12 who reported having used an e-cigarette doubled from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent. In addition, the use of e-cigarettes among 6-12 year olds increased from 1.1 percent to 2.1 percent during the same time.

"The e-cigarette industry is using a number of marketing techniques originally employed by the cigarette companies to addict youth, including the use of candy and fruit flavors," the letter says.

The organizations also decry increases in cigar smoking, saying that the use of large cigars increased 233 percent between 2000 and 2011. Nearly 18 percent of high school males currently smoke cigars, and every day, more than 3,000 kids younger than 18 try cigar smoking for the first time, making cigar smoking the second most common form of tobacco use among youth.

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