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E-cig usage among youth has lawmakers worried

E-cig usage among youth has lawmakers worried

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Electronic cigarettes are becoming a popular choice for adults looking to quit traditional cigarette smoking.

But a new report by the Centers for Disease Control regarding e-cigarette usage among youths has some lawmakers on Capitol Hill worried.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is one of the lawmakers leading the charge.

"450,000 Americans die every year from tobacco-related illnesses, so big tobacco understands they need at least 450,000 new customers. And where do they go? They go to kids," Brown (D-OH) said.

Over the years, laws have been passed to help prevent cigarettes from getting into the wrong hands. But now, Brown is turning his attention towards tobacco-free electronic cigarettes.

"We're afraid with these e-cigarettes, that don't have any rules around them, that they're going to, with their very sophisticated, highly paid executives and marketers, figure out ways to get more kids addicted to these and use it as a ‘gateway drug' to get into cigarette smoking at a young age," Brown said.

Brown and 11 other lawmakers sent this letter to several e-cigarette manufacturers asking them for information regarding the sale, distribution, labeling, and marketing of their products to children and teens.

They cited a recent Centers for Disease Control report showing a dramatic increase in e-cigarette use among kids.

"Yes, the popularity of e-cigarettes has grown among young people," said Elaine Keller, of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association. "But, at the same time, the rates of smoking, and the rates of initiation of smoking, have gone way down."

Keller studied the CDC report, and said the numbers could be misleading.

"The problem is, they use the word ‘use' very loosely. You and I would think of ‘use' as something used frequently or daily. They are talking about ever used," she said.

Keller credits her e-cigarette usage – called ‘vaping' – for helping her quit cigarette smoking after 45 years.

Right now, the Food and Drug Administration is in the process of deciding how it will regulate e-cigarettes. Keller said she hopes it will not impact her usage.

"We need regulations that are sensible and that don't impact the pricing so that they cost more than smoking and don't impact the acceptability of them to smokers, so that they'll switch to them instead of continuing to smoke," Keller said.

Brown said he just wants to see better marketing.

"I'm not advocating banning them; I'm just advocating they don't target children," he said.