CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Last fall, the FOX19 Investigates team told you about the sharp rise of the use of e-cigarette among people in the Tri-State and the companies marketing to them with flashy ads, bright colored packaging, and a wide variety of sweet flavors including banana nut bread, cotton candy, and bubble gum.
Now, there's a fight to treat e-cigs like the real thing. Back when FOX19 first aired that investigation, 39 state attorneys generals had asked the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the battery powered devices. Those guidelines have since been released. Among them:
- The restrict sales to minors
- Ban free samples
- Include health warning labels on their products
However, the proposed changes don't go nearly far enough for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) who, along with several members of Congress, has released a report accusing the e-cigarette companies of targeting a new generation of potential addicts.
"They don't go after people my age. They go after high school kids and junior high kids in Cincinnati, in Mason, and in Hamilton and Batavia. We can't allow e-cigarette companies to do that - to start getting high school kids addicted," Brown tells FOX19.
While there is currently no scientific evidence that shows e-cigs are addictive, there's no denying they're gaining in popularity.
According to the CDC, the number of teens who have tried e-cigarettes has more than doubled over the past three years.
"These are really smart people that are marketing e-cigarettes and they're using some of the same sleazy tactics aimed at children that big tobacco uses," adds Senator Brown who wants e-cigarette companies to no longer market to customers on popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. "We've done a good job in this country in the last ten years of reducing the smoking rate, especially among kids. We're going to lose those gains we've made if these e-cigarette companies don't have to abide by the same rules as big tobacco," says Brown.
Lorillard, the maker of top-seller 'Blu' e-cigarettes says they take steps to prevent kids under 18 from buying their product. As for the FDA, they say tougher regulations could be coming, but that could be months or even years away.
That's the bottom line, that cigarette companies remain free to market their products in ways cigarette companies can't.