In-Depth: Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced this bill to ban advertisements for e-cigarettes and vaping devices on television and radio:
“Until the 1970s, the powerful cigarette industry used broadcast marketing as a means to sell their deadly products to Americans, and it cynically targeted young people in order to attract new customers, who would be beholden to their products for life. Today, the e-cigarette industry is doing the same thing. Congress banned cigarette ads on TV and radio beginning in 1971. However, due to a loophole, e-cigarette and vaping ads have been rapidly popping up on America’s screens, leading to a rise in vaping, especially among America’s youth. It is becoming abundantly clear that e-cigarettes and vaping are causing new, harmful health impacts among the people who use them. My bill would close this advertising loophole to ensure e-cigarette companies can no longer market these harmful products to children and young people.”
In her introductory remarks on September 18, 2019, Rep. Brownley cited vaping-related illnesses to underscore this bill’s urgency:
“[R]ecently, it was reported that a seventh person has died from a vaping-related illness in the United States. In response, the CDC recently announced that it has activated its emergency operations center to investigate what is quickly becoming a public health crisis. It is becoming abundantly clear that e-cigarettes are causing harmful health impacts among both teens, approximately 2.4 million students, and adults who use them. While more research is needed, I believe this public health emergency requires swift action by Congress to prevent the marketing of these products to young people. That is why I have introduced the Stop Vaping Ads Act, which will close the loophole in current law and would ban e-cigarette advertisements on broadcast media. I invite my colleagues to join me in support of this commonsense bill that will help curb the onslaught of harmful and dangerous e-cigarette ads.”
In an email to the Thousand Oaks Acorn, Rep. Brownley also argues that e-cigarettes could lead to lifelong tobacco use by youth:
“The CDC reports that about 2.4 million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes as of 2014. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which causes addiction, may harm brain development and could lead to continued tobacco product use among youth. CDC has concluded that exposure to e-cigarette advertisements may be contributing to increases in e-cigarette use among youth.”
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit advocacy group that champions the use of vaping products and electronic cigarettes as a means to help traditional cigarette smokers quit, believes this bill wouldn’t have much of an effect. He explains:
“Television advertising, by and large, is a low-hanging fruit. The only advertising Congress can control is . . . basic television. The very few existing companies advertising on TV will just move their ads to cable.”
Conley also notes that only a handful of e-cigarette and vape companies advertise nationally as is. He also theorizes that this bill could be subject to a legal challenge by some of the larger e-cigarette and vape companies:
“When judges said the commercial ban on cigarettes was constitutional, they had evidence that cigarettes were killing hundreds of thousands of people. The evidence today grows stronger linking (illness) to contaminated (illicit) cartridges.”
This legislation has 14 Democratic cosponsors.
Of Note: The CDC reports that tobacco product advertising can entice youth to use tobacco, and that spending to advertise e-cigarettes has risen rapidly since 2011. The CDC reports that about 69% of middle and high school students were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements in retail stores, on the internet, in magazines and newspapers, on television, and in movies. This exposure to e-cigarette advertisements may, according to the CDC, be contributing to increasing e-cigarette use among youth.
As of October 1, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,080 lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarette or vaping products. These cases covered 48 states and one U.S. territory. They included 18 deaths across 15 states.
All patients report a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products, and most report a history of using THC-containing products. Approximately 70% of patients are male. Many patients are young, as about 80% are under 35 years old, 16% are under 18 years old, and 21% are 18-20 years old. Patients range in age from 13 to 75 years old, and their median age is 23 years old.
While its investigation is ongoing, the CDC recommends that individuals refrain from using e-cigarette or vaping products, particularly those containing THC. It also suggests that, regardless of the ongoing investigation, youth and young adults shouldn’t use e-cigarette or vaping products.
In a September 9, 2019 letter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to JUUL Labs — manufacturer of a popular line of vaping products. The FDA expressed concerns over JUUL’s outreach and marketing practices, particularly those targeted at students, tribes, health insurers, and employers. Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. wrote:
“Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful. JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth. In addition, we’re troubled about several issues related to JUUL’s outreach and marketing practices that came to light in a recent Congressional hearing. We will continue to scrutinize tobacco product marketing and take action as appropriate to ensure that the public is not misled into believing a certain product has been proven less risky or less harmful. We remain committed to using all available tools to ensure that e-cigarettes and other tobacco products aren’t being marketed or sold to kids. We’ve also put the industry on notice: If the disturbing rise in youth e-cigarette use continues, especially through the use of flavors that appeal to kids, we’ll take even more aggressive action.”
In its letter, the FDA discussed its determination that JUUL had marketed its products as modified risk tobacco products without an appropriate FDA order in effect. This, according to the FDA, would reasonably be expected to result in consumers believe that JUUL’s products present a lower risk of tobacco-related disease, are less harmful than other commercially marketed tobacco products, contain a reduced level of harmful substances, and/or don’t contain harmful substances.
The FDA’s letter also cited several misleading statements a JUUL representative made to students in a presentation at a school. These were discussed in testimony at a July 2019 Congressional hearing on JUUL. Among these statements were claims that:
- JUUL “was much safer than cigarettes” and that “FDA would approve it any day.”
- JUUL was “totally safe.”
- A recommendation that a student “... should mention JUUL to his [nicotine-addicted] friend…because that’s a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes, and it would be better for the kid to use.”
- “FDA was about to come out and say it [JUUL] was 99% safer than cigarettes…and that…would happen very soon….”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / licsiren)