E-cigarette makers are targeting young people with free samples distributed at music and sporting events, according to an investigation by 11 Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate. The companies are also running radio and television ads during programs aimed at young people, the lawmakers said.
They hope their report will speed the release of e-cigarette regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to The New York Times. Some public health experts say e-cigarettes could help reduce the rate of regular cigarette smoking, while others are concerned the devices could encourage young people to try traditional cigarettes.
The report included results from a survey of eight major e-cigarette producers. All eight said they had given away free samples, and six said they had sponsored events. According to the report, 348 events featured free samples and sponsorship in 2012 and 2013, “many of which appeared geared toward youth.”
Lorillard, which makes the e-cigarette Blu, was responsible for the most free samples and sponsorships, the report found. The company sponsored Freedom Project, a national music tour. Ads for Blu ran in Sports Illustrated, and featured women in bikinis. A spokesman for the company said it does not advertise to youth.
Representative Henry Waxman of California, who led the inquiry into e-cigarettes with Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, said in a news release, “E-cigarette makers are starting to prey on kids, just like the big tobacco companies. With over a million youth now using e-cigarettes, FDA needs to act without further delay to stop the companies from marketing their addictive products to children.”