WASHINGTON: Anti-smoking nonprofit Legacy is pleased with the Food and Drug Administration’s first moves to regulate the e-cigarette industry by banning sales to minors, but the organization believes more should be done in the future.
Legacy, which is responsible for the youth anti-tobacco campaign called Truth, has always made consistency a priority in its messaging around e-cigarettes because there are still so many questions surrounding the viability of the product, said Patricia McLaughlin, associate vice president of communications at the nonprofit.
She added that Legacy believes that regulations are needed, and by no means should e-cigarettes be promoted to children.
Last week, the FDA proposed that e-cigarette sales to minors would be banned, but flavored products, which are cited by critics as a ploy to attract children, and marketing would be allowed.
Part of Legacy’s mission is to promote education, including having a team conduct original research around the product.
To date, Legacy hasn’t branded any efforts around e-cigarettes as a specific campaign, said McLaughlin, but it covers a number of aspects on the product, including research, government affairs, and information in other initiatives.
Grassroots spokespeople are trained at Legacy on how to talk about the product, she explained. E-cigarette use has doubled among teens, said McLaughlin, and questions are on the rise among consumers.
While Legacy welcomes the initial action taken, McLaughlin said the FDA and other groups need to remain "vigilant" because the e-cigarette is projected to be a $2 billion industry.
"We could be looking at several years from now before the FDA even has the authority to make the move to any substantial regulation," said Jennifer Pearson, research investigator at the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Legacy.
The trouble lies in how much is unknown about e-cigarettes, such as whether they may help smokers quit, serve as a gateway for youth to try traditional cigarettes, or a little bit of both, added Pearson.
Legacy said in a statement last week that the foundation’s members "applaud the FDA’s action to take this necessary first step to regulate electronic cigarettes, little cigars, cigarillos, and hookah."
The statement added that the group welcomes "the FDA’s decision to immediately begin the process for issuing regulations to extend the prohibition of marketing practices," including free samples, vending machine sales, and outdoor advertising, as well as restricting sales of all tobacco products to anyone under 18.
However, the statement expressed the group’s concern that regulations may not include premium cigars, candy-flavored little cigars, or flavored e-cigarettes that are "highly appealing to youth, women, and low socio-economic populations."