Senate Democrats introduced legislation on Wednesday that would ban marketing electronic cigarettes to teens.
Despite their admission that the health implications of electronic cigarettes "are not yet clear," Senators Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), and Edward Markey (D., Mass.) introduced the bill to "protect children" from the smoking simulators.
The "Protecting Children from Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act" would authorize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to "determine what constitutes marketing e-cigarettes to children, and would allow the FTC to work with states attorneys general to enforce the ban."
"We cannot risk undoing decades of progress in reducing youth smoking by allowing e-cigarette makers to target our kids," Boxer said in a statement. "This bill will help protect our children from an industry that profits from addiction."
In a statement, Durbin decried "fruit and candy flavors and glossy celebrity ads," while Harkin said electronic cigarettes advertising is "‘Joe Camel’ all over again."
The statements were toned down from previous comments that accused actors and actresses who smoked e-cigarettes at the Golden Globes of "killing" their fans.
Electronic cigarettes simulate smoking by using water vapor, nicotine, and other additives. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study found nine contaminants in the water vapor of an electronic cigarette versus 11,000 in a tobacco cigarette.
Boxer’s office said there is "no way of knowing" whether e-cigarettes are harmful or not.
"The health implications of using electronic cigarettes are not yet clear, and the Food and Drug Administration has warned that consumers of e-cigarette products ‘currently have no way of knowing’ if e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use, or how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use," the press release said.
The Democrats insist that electronic cigarettes are a "gateway" to actual cigarette smoking, though the product has become a popular method current smokers use to attempt to quit.
Many advertisements, such as this blu eCigs spot featuring Stephen Dorff, market electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.
According to Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, electronic cigarettes are one of the most effective ways to stop smoking, aside from quitting "cold turkey."
"The thing about electronic cigarettes is they replace all the other aspects of smoking," Siegel told the Washington Free Beacon last fall. "They look like cigarettes, they feel like cigarettes, you hold them, you see the vapor, there’s a throat hit that you get. You can associate the same feelings with smoking."
Siegel says the government is intent on regulating on of the greatest innovations he has seen.
"Here is an innovation that really adds something and instead of responding and saying, ‘Wow this is an innovation that we didn’t have,’ the medical community, scientific community is saying this is a danger, ‘We have to get rid of these things,’" he said.
The Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing a proposed rule from the FDA that would give the agency regulatory power over electronic cigarettes.
The FDA wants to require companies to "register and pay fees, list the ingredients in their products, obtain prior approval for new products and restrict online sales," according to Reuters.
Harkin said the proposed legislation prohibiting marketing to children would "complement" the FDA’s efforts and "ultimately help prevent e-cigarette manufacturers from targeting our children."