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Hartford — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said Monday that they hope bills they have each introduced to ban electronic-cigarette companies from advertising their products to children will receive bipartisan support.
“Kids aren’t using e-cigarettes to stop smoking like some adults,” Esty said. “Our children are getting hooked on nicotine, a highly addictive drug, which the surgeon general has warned has lasting, adverse consequences for adolescent brain development.”
Minors in Connecticut can legally purchase e-cigarettes, although Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed banning those sales this year.
Supporters of the bill said the brightly colored e-cigarettes that come in flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy should not be advertised to children because the product is addictive and could cause a lifetime of disease.
They said e-cigarette advertising to children includes use of celebrity endorsements, sporting events and cartoons.
A representative from the Libertarian-leaning Heartland Institute in Chicago spoke out against the legislation during the press conference and said that banning advertising to children would essentially mean banning advertising to adults as well.
Gregory Conley of the Heartland Institute said the watermelon-flavored e-cigarettes helped him quit smoking three years ago and that the legislation has no chance of passing. Blumenthal responded that the legislation does not call for a ban on e-cigarettes.
It calls for the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarette advertising as it does for other tobacco products, Blumenthal said.
“Now Big Tobacco is buying e-cigarette companies,” Blumenthal said. “Do you think it is because big tobacco wants to promote smoking cessation? I don’t think so. Big tobacco is buying e-cigarette companies to do with modern and up-to-date, candy-flavored e-cigarettes what it used to do with Joe Camel.”
Blumenthal said he has a lot of support in the Senate for the legislation and thinks he can get Republican support for the public health issue.
Several public health representatives and legislators including state Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, stood with Blumenthal in support of the federal legislation.
Jeff Seyler, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast, said the association is concerned about e-cigarettes because it is unclear what is in them and what the health consequences are.
The National Poison Data System has reported that from 2011 to 2012 there was a 300 percent increase from poisonings caused by electronic liquids, he said. A study by The Journal of the American Medical Association: Pediatrics found that “kids who use these e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke cigarettes and less likely to quite smoking,” Seyler said.