U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called for regulation on electronic cigarettes and the reconsideration of a "safe harbor" provision that would stop private tobacco companies from challenging public health laws in a conference call Wednesday.
One in five Ohio deaths are caused by tobacco use, Brown said.
Brown said because the tobacco industry is losing 400,000 to 500,000 of their customers per year, it needs to find more customers to maintain its profit, and without regulations are not selling their product to children.
"Our efforts to stop the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the world are again being undermined by big tobacco (companies)," Brown said. "In order to replace the more than 400,000 customers it loses each year to tobacco related deaths, Big Tobacco has fought to weaken anti-tobacco laws and market new products to children."
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Executive Director Susan Liss said tobacco companies' marketing programs have increased.
"The tobacco industry is using abusive trade lawsuits to challenge tobacco control laws around the globe, and we need to ensure these life-saving policies are protected," she said. "The jump in youth e-cigarette use comes as marketing for e-cigarettes has skyrocketed and e-cigarette companies are increasingly using the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids. ... It's time for the (Food and Drug Administration) and the states to take action to protect our kids."
Brown called on the FDA to regulate electronic cigarettes and prohibit their sale and marketing to children. Since the e-cigarettes are not subject to federal laws, companies are permitted to sell e-cigarettes to minors, use fruit flavors that appeal to children and advertising on television and radio. Because of this, e-cigarette use has doubled among middle school and high school students in the last year, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also said e-cigarettes could be a gateway to traditional smoking.
Brown urged the FDA in April to issue regulations on e-cigarettes, including restricting the sale, distribution and marketing to children.
He also spoke about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and wanted the Obama administration to reconsider a provision that would protect American tobacco-control efforts from trade challenges and lawsuits. The administration has stopped promoting a "safe harbor" provision that would limit efforts by private tobacco companies to challenge public health laws against tobacco use.
"We can't allow tobacco companies a back door," he said.