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Senators Urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to Mandate Strong Warning Labels for E-cigarettes

Oct 15, 2014

A group of Democratic senators has written to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require strong warning labels for e-cigarettes.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Jack Reed, Sherrod Brown, and Ed Markey asked that the agency act on proposed new rules that would expand the agency’s ability to regulate all nicotine products, The Hill reports.

Because there are currently no federally mandated warning labels for e-cigarettes, big tobacco companies that manufacture e-cigarettes are producing their own warning labels, but these fail to list all of the health risks, according to the letter. The FDA’s proposed label reads “WARNING: This product contains nicotine derived from tobacco. Nicotine is an addictive chemical,” the letter states. But the senators deem this warning insufficient. “We support requiring a label on nicotine's addictive properties, but we ask the FDA pursue requirements for more extensive warnings that address health risks that e-cigarettes pose,” The Hill reports.

The full text of the letter is contained in a news release from Sen. Boxer’s office.  The letter says the lack of uniformity in company-produced warnings highlights “how voluntary health warnings often leave out known dangers from nicotine use – such as risks to adolescent brain development and pregnant women, as well as the dangers posed by additives and other chemicals that may be in e-cigarettes, such as benzene and formaldehyde.” Recent studies have shown that some e-cigarettes can get hot enough to produce some of the same carcinogens as conventional cigarettes, The New York Times reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported an increase in nicotine poisoning incidents. The liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes can be toxic. For a small child, as little as a teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be fatal. The liquid comes in fruit and candy flavors that appeal to children and manufacturers are not required to use childproof bottles. E-cigarette users have reported breathing difficulties, chest pain and other cardiovascular problems, and allergic reactions to the FDA.

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