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AMA News Room

Nov. 10, 2014

AMA Supports Further Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes to Protect Youth

For immediate release:
Nov. 10, 2014

DALLAS – As electronic cigarettes continue to gain popularity among youth in the U.S., the American Medical Association (AMA) is reinforcing its support for regulatory oversight of electronic cigarettes. The nation's largest physician organization adopted new policy during the AMA Interim Meeting today supporting regulations that would establish the minimum legal purchase age for electronic cigarettes of 18 years old, place marketing restrictions on manufacturers, and prohibit claims that electronic cigarettes are effective tobacco cessation tools.

According to estimates from the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey, electronic cigarette use among middle school and high school students in the U.S. has grown at a rapid rate in recent years. The prevalence of "ever trying" an electronic cigarette doubled among both of these groups from 2011 to 2012. The survey also found that more than 263,000 middle and high school students who had never before smoked reported using electronic cigarettes in 2013, a threefold increase from 79,000 in 2011.

"The AMA supports the FDA's proposed rule to regulate electronic cigarettes, and we urge the federal government to implement more stringent regulations that will further protect our nation's youth and overall public health," said AMA Member William E. Kobler, M.D. "The new policy will continue the AMA's efforts to deter the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and ensure the necessary regulation of nicotine delivery systems."

Many health professionals are concerned about the potential harmful health effects of acute and chronic inhalation of the vaporized chemicals found in electronic cigarettes, including nicotine, propylene glycol (a known irritant when inhaled), and other chemicals often of unknown dose and identity. Experts are concerned that the marketing of electronic cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people or serve as a gateway for them to try other tobacco products like conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death. In fact, CDC data shows that nearly one-third of adolescents using electronic cigarettes have never smoked a conventional cigarette, indicating that some youth are starting use of the addictive drug nicotine with electronic cigarettes.

Evidence-based policies and regulations are needed that protect the entire population (children and adults, smokers and nonsmokers) in the context of how the electronic cigarette industry is marketing and promoting these products. The AMA's expanded policy aims to further strengthen the regulation of electronic cigarettes and nicotine delivery systems, including the following:

  • Require transparency and disclosure concerning product design, contents, and emissions; and prohibit the use of characterizing flavors that may enhance the appeal of such products to youth
  • Apply the same marketing and sales restrictions that are applied to tobacco cigarettes
  • Prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by patients, visitors and health care personnel in hospitals and other health care institutions
  • Prohibit use in all places that tobacco cigarette use is prohibited
  • Require the use of secure, child- and tamper-proof packaging and design

The new policy extends existing AMA policy adopted in 2013 calling for all electronic cigarettes to be subject to the same regulations and oversight that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applies to tobacco and nicotine products and seeking tighter restrictions on the sale and marketing practices of companies that produce electronic nicotine delivery systems.

"The AMA encourages the FDA to act swiftly to assert jurisdiction over electronic cigarettes and issue regulations regarding their manufacture and prohibiting their marketing and sale, particularly to youth and current nonsmokers," said Dr. Kobler. "Improving the health of the nation is AMA's top priority and we will continue to advocate for policies that help reduce the burden of preventable diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which can both be linked to smoking."

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Media Contact:
Kelly Jakubek
(312) 464-4443
Email: Kelly.Jakubek@ama-assn.org

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