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Blog: With E-Cigarettes, FDA Regulation Likely to Rule the Day

By: Walton Milam, Associate Staff

Though the FDA banned Television advertisements for cigarettes over four decades ago, e-Cigarettes advertisements are not yet subject to these FDA regulations and have flooded the airwaves recently.[1]  E-cigarette advertisements will even make it on the air during the Superbowl in some locales.[2]  The FDA is closely monitoring this movement and is expected to release regulations regarding e-Cigarette advertising at some point this year.[3]

Though the FDA decided long ago to stifle the free market from freely advertising tobacco products to Americans, it remains to be seen how the FDA will handle this new product which does not contain Tobacco and supposedly has far less damaging health effects than traditional cigarettes.[4]  E-Cigarette sellers are certainly hoping the FDA won’t curtail their intense advertising blitz that must be paying off.  Though E-cigarette manufacturers only spent $1.1 million on advertising over the first nine months of 2012, they spent $15 million over the first nine months of last year.[5] 

In addition to health concerns regarding E-cigarettes themselves, some fear their resemblance to actual cigarettes is reason enough to ban their advertisement on television as young viewers believe the advertisements will depict individuals smoking tobacco cigarettes.[6]  E-cigarette manufacturers claim their market is adults who already smoke tobacco cigarettes and want a healthier alternative.[7]

Unfortunately, the FDA will almost assuredly inflict some sort of regulation on E-cigarettes and both those opposed to E-cigarette advertising and those in favor will spend millions of lobbying dollars hashing out the issue on capital hill.   The FDA’s whole existence is based on the idea that consumers themselves are incapable of making informed health decisions and that government regulation is needed to block dangerous products from getting in the hands of consumers.  Though the folks in the FDA no doubt have good intentions, their time and money might better be spent creating an advertisement of their own.  If advertisements are such an effective way to influence consumers, as the FDA no doubt believes they are, why not create an FDA television ad explaining the negative health affects of E-Cigarettes (or tobacco cigarettes for that matter, though the hatchet was long ago buried the tobacco industry.)  Why not empower consumers with information that allows them to make an informed choice as to whether or not they want to take on the risks of smoking E-cigarettes rather than preventing any information from reaching consumers, pro or con. 

Though the FDA will assuredly not create an advertisement arguing the negative effects of E-cigarettes, they are likely to come up with some sort of regulations for E-cigarettes in the near future.  Furthermore, though millions of dollars will be spent on lobbying, consumer will likely be left with no more information about E-cigarettes than they had at their disposal in the first place.




[1] http://business.time.com/2014/01/23/the-superbowl-ad-you-wont-see-this-year/

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/e-cigarettes-reignite-tobacco-wars-102569.html

[5] http://business.time.com/2014/01/23/the-superbowl-ad-you-wont-see-this-year/

[6] http://consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/04/do-e-cigarettes-help-smokers-quit/index.htm

[7] Id.

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