E-Cigarette Warnings Urged by U.S. Senators Due to Potential Risks

Six United States Senators are calling on the FDA to place stricter warnings on e-cigarettes, indicating that the popular electronic smoking alternatives may carry health risks.

In a letter (PDF) issued last week by, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Jack Reed of Rhode Island indicated that the federal health agency should require stronger e-cigarette warnings and enact previously promised regulations.

The Senators highlighted the need to finalize the regulations proposed by the FDA in 2010, which would give the agency the authority to oversee e-cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The letter urges the FDA to adopt more aggressive warning labels for e-cigarettes products, which would warn consumers of the health consequences.

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It also touches on a recent article published in the New York Times, which outlined the vastly different warning labels offered by big and small e-cigarette manufacturers.

Warnings Lack Uniformity

Larger tobacco companies issue extensive health warnings on e-cigarette products, yet small tobacco companies have modest warnings or even advertise health benefits of e-cigarettes.

The Senators warn that many of the claimed benefits associated with e-cigarette are unsubstantiated. In fact, the letter said plainly, many companies are “beginning to concoct their own health warnings.”

The warning labels lack uniformity, which the group wants the FDA to address and provide “standardized consumer protections based on scientific evidence.”

The letter also says the warnings often leave out potentially serious nicotine risks; such as risks to adolescent brain development and risks to pregnant women, in addition to the danger posed by additives and chemicals.

In the letter, the group also calls on the FDA to update warning labels for other tobacco products as well, including traditional cigarettes that have been on the market for some time.

The FDA-proposed regulations, which are not finalized, have much more lenient warnings which simply state nicotine is an addictive chemical, and does nothing to highlight the health risks.

In a letter issued in 2013, 40 state attorneys general signed a letter urging the FDA to begin regulating e-cigarettes. The letter highlighted the increasing safety concerns of the product, calling for the FDA to regulate the advertising, ingredients and sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

The e-cigarette business has boomed to more than $3 billion annually and continues to grow, with projections reaching the $20 billion mark soon.

However, e-cigarettes are often touted as a tool for cigarette smokers to quit smoking. However, manufacturers often leave out health risks, leaving consumers to determine the health risks or benefits themselves.

E-Cigarette Risks to Children

Earlier this year, Consumer Reports called for legislation that would require e-cigarette manufacturers to make child proof safety packaging for liquid nicotine containers.

The push followed an increase in the reports of e-cigarette poisonings among children attributed to nicotine exposure, following a doubling of the number of reports issued last year.

E-cigarettes are often considered less harmful than traditional cigarettes, which are the leading cause of preventable deaths around the world. However, the FDA issued a health warning in 2009 concerning the health impact of e-cigarettes.

The warning revealed laboratory analysis of some e-cigarettes contained carcinogens and toxic chemicals. One of the detected chemicals, diethylene glycol, is an ingredient used in antifreeze. Analysis also detected nitrosamines, a compound known to cause cancer which is also present in normal cigarettes.

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