Senators will weigh in on the debate on regulating the use and sale of electronic cigarettes Thursday.
According to the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions’ website, the hearing will include testimony from members of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Director of the Center for Tobacco Products and the Food and Drug Administration.
The hearing is part of a continued effort on the part of Democratic senators to push the Federal Food and Drug Administration to place strict regulations on the e-cigarette industry. If the team of Democratic senators has their way, the tobacco alternative will be subject to laws similar to those governing the highly-regulated tobacco industry.
The Democrats leading the anti-e-cigarette campaign, including Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, wrote a letter to the FDA last week outlining what measures they want the agency to take.
Citing a recent study by The New York Times which found e-cigarette vapor may contain carcinogens, the senators called on the FDA to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces.
They told the FDA that it “is critical that the agency’s regulatory oversight keep pace with these new nicotine delivery products and the way in which they are commonly utilized.”
The senators also accused the e-cigarette industry of advertising their products to youths, and demanded that the FDA prohibit the sale of candy-flavored nicotine.
While lawmakers on the Hill are marketing e-cigarettes as a threat to the public’s health and as a ‘gateway’ drug for young people, others argue that the devices are potentially life-saving and restricting their use could have severe consequences.
Julie Woessner, the president of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), told The Daily Caller News Foundation that she is not opposed to all federal regulations, but that “treating e-cigarettes like traditional cigarettes would be a huge disaster from a public health standpoint.”
Harkin and his Democratic colleagues “are trying to use public pressure to destroy an industry that could save millions of lives,” she said.
Because the e-cigarette industry has only taken off over the past several years, there is very little data regarding the long-term health effects of using the devices. However, there is strong anecdotal evidence that the tobacco alternative might be an effective cigarette-cessation product.
Unlike nicotine gum and the patch, using e-cigarettes allows cigarette smokers to mimic the motion of smoking, often making the experience satisfying enough to completely wane them off traditional cigarettes.
E-cigarette users are also attracted to the variety of liquid nicotine flavors, says Woessner, which she explained are not designed to target prospective teenage customers.
“Have you been to the grocery store and seen all of the flavored vodka?” noted Woessner, explaining that adults also enjoy flavored products.
The FDA announced its plans to exert its authority over the industry in late April. The final regulations will not be drafted until after the 75-day public commenting period, ending in the beginning of summer.
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