Princeton, N.J.—The following is a statement from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, regarding today's final rule by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) about the regulation of all tobacco products.
For more than 25 years The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been on the front lines of the battle against the harm caused by tobacco products, the largest cause of preventable death in the nation. So we celebrate the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement today that it will regulate all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars, and hookah, and ban sales of all these products to children under 18. But at the same time, we encourage the agency to go further, and quickly, before a new generation of young people becomes addicted to tobacco.
The FDA regulations were issued a day after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a packet of state laws that raise the age of sale for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 from 18, and strengthen laws protecting residents from the dangers of second hand smoke. California joins Hawaii and some 145 cities and towns across the country in setting higher age limits on tobacco sales, which experts agree can reduce youth tobacco initiation and youth tobacco use. This will hopefully provide momentum to the many other states and cities considering such restrictions.
The FDA’s action combined with state and local efforts could not be more important -- tobacco products are responsible for 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. It is particularly significant that the FDA will now regulate e-cigarettes, as federal surveys have found that use of these products by high school students rocketed from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015, an increase of more than 900 percent. One in four high school students and one in 13 middle school students now report regularly using tobacco in some form—a total of 4.7 million youth tobacco users.
Far more must be done, however, to address the marketing of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products to children. Studies have proven that tobacco advertising directly influences youth, and that such sweet e-cigarette flavors as gummy bear and cotton candy play a role in children trying these products. Today’s final rule did not address these issues, and we strongly urge the FDA to take aggressive regulatory and enforcement actions to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, in any form it takes. These additional steps are necessary to protect the public’s health and especially the health of children, now and for generations to come.