Attorney General Ellison pushes FDA to protect kids from e-cigarette addiction

Letter follows State’s historic settlement with JUUL and Altria


September 1, 2023

August 30, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison joined a bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general today in calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its Center for Tobacco Products to do more to protect kids from e-cigarettes. In a letter submitted to the FDA responding to a request for comments on the Center’s proposed five-year strategic plan, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition urge the FDA to set up guardrails to prevent young people from getting addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes. The recommendations they make include limiting the flavors that draw kids in, reducing nicotine levels to prevent addiction, and protecting young people from marketing.

The bipartisan letter Attorney General Ellison sent today follows the historic settlement his office reached with Big Tobacco companies JUUL and Altria for deceptively marketing e-cigarettes. The $60.5 million settlement is the largest per capita of its kind in the United States. As part of the settlement, JUUL also agreed not to market to people under age 35 and to accurately disclose the true nicotine content of its products, among other terms. Attorney General Ellison first sued JUUL in December 2019 and amended the complaint to include Altria as a defendant in December 2020. The State’s lawsuit went to trial on March 28, 2023 and the State and defendants settled on April 17, 2023, shortly before the case was to go to the jury.

“We may have settled with JUUL and Altria, but the fight against youth tobacco use is still on,” Attorney General Ellison said. “We are doing what we can to eliminate youth tobacco use in Minnesota, and this bipartisan group of attorneys general and I are calling on the FDA to do more to help us fight this fight.”

In the letter, Attorney General Ellison and the bipartisan coalition recommend that the FDA:

1. Prohibit all non-tobacco flavors in e-cigarettes. These flavors – mimicking fruits, candies, and desserts – are a major reason young people try e-cigarettes in the first place.

2. Enact evidence-based limits on nicotine in e-cigarettes. More than 80 percent of e-cigarettes sold have more than five percent of nicotine concentration. And because some devices last for hundreds or thousands of puffs, young people end up consuming much more nicotine.

3. Restrict marketing that attracts youth by making sure marketing materials don’t target them and preventing young people from being bombarded with ads about e-cigarettes. E-cigarette manufacturers have used social media and influencer marketing to entice teenagers.

4. Close the “disposable loophole”. Disposable e-cigarettes have not been subject to the same existing FDA enforcement guidance as cartridge e-cigarettes, and they’ve surged in popularity. More than half of youth e-cigarette users last year reported that they use disposable e-cigarettes instead of cartridge-based e-cigarettes.

The attorneys general are also asking the FDA to promptly enforce the law against companies and sellers across the e-cigarette supply chain who are flouting federal regulations.

More than 9,000 types of e-cigarette devices are sold in the United States, and nearly 6,000 of those are disposable devices. Last year, 14 percent of high school students reported that they were currently using e-cigarettes. Teen nicotine consumption is linked to nicotine poisoning, mental health and behavioral problems, academic issues, and future addiction to other substances.

Attorney General Ellison is joined in sending this bipartisan letter by the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.


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