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U.S. Attorneys General urge FDA to regulate e-cigarettes

A man uses an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, slightly longer than a normal cigarette, in this illustration pict
A man uses an E-cigarette, an electronic substitute in the form of a rod, slightly longer than a normal cigarette, in this illustration pict

(Reuters) - Top U.S. law enforcement officials urged the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to promptly issue a promised set of rules governing the sale of e-cigarettes, adding to a growing body of legal and public health officials demanding action.

In 2009, the FDA was given authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, although not pipe tobacco, cigars or e-cigarettes. The law allows the FDA to expand its authority over all tobacco products, but it must first issue new regulations. The FDA has said they are in development.

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Attorneys General from 41 states asked the agency to "take all available measures" to issue the rules by the end of October.

"We ask the FDA to move quickly to ensure that all tobacco products are tested and regulated to ensure that companies do not continue to sell or advertise to our nation's youth," they wrote.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter comes less than a week after the American Academy of Pediatrics and 14 other public health organizations, including the American Lung Association and American Heart Association, sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to pressure the FDA into issuing the rules.

In July, the FDA said it might place restrictions on menthol cigarettes following a review that showed the products are likely to be more addictive than regular cigarettes. The agency is seeking public comment.

In their letter, the Attorneys General noted that sales of e-cigarettes have doubled every year since 2008 and are projected to reach $1.7 billion in 2013. The cost, meanwhile, has fallen, making them more affordable and attractive to youth, they said.

Moreover, there are no restrictions on advertising e-cigarettes.

"Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight ensuring the safety of the ingredients in e-cigarettes."

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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