As a physician, I am very concerned about youth use of any tobacco products and encourage the FDA to regulate all tobacco products. I especially urge the FDA to regulate all cigars and not try to exempt so-called premium cigars. I know from experience that cigars are not just smoked by adults – kids smoke them too. High school boys now smoke cigars at the same rate as cigarettes (16.5 percent for cigars and 16.4 percent for cigarettes), and more male high school seniors smoke cigars than smoke cigarettes, according to the latest CDC survey. According to the FDA’s proposed rule, “all cigars are harmful and potentially addictive” and “a large cigar may contain as much tobacco as a whole pack of cigarettes.” Exempting any category of tobacco product creates a dangerous loophole that the tobacco industry can exploit to create and market products that appeal to kids.
The FDA should also restrict e-cigarette marketing and flavors that appeal to kids. It is very troubling that the percentage of middle and high school students who reported ever using e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012, as the CDC reported.
FDA should issue a final rule by April 2015. FDA has already taken far too long to begin regulating e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, and we cannot afford any more delays. Before FDA can implement warning labels and take other actions, the rule must be finalized. Delay could mean we won’t see changes in the marketplace for several years. That is unacceptable and puts our kids and public health at risk.
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