FTC Seeks Public Comments on Proposed Study of the E-Cigarette Industry

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The Federal Trade Commission plans to begin a study of the U.S. sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as e-cigarettes. To conduct the study, the agency would issue information requests to e-cigarette marketers and would use the information as a basis for a report on the sales, marketing activities, and expenditures in this new and complex industry.

Since the mid-2000s, the sale of battery-powered e-cigarettes has grown rapidly in the United States. Rather than burning tobacco, e-cigarettes heat liquid containing flavorings and chemicals (usually including nicotine) to produce an aerosol that the user inhales. E-cigarettes are sold both online and in conventional brick-and-mortar stores, are available in both disposable and refillable models, and come in a range of different flavors and nicotine levels.

The FTC is seeking clearance from the Office of Management and Budget to collect information from the e-cigarette marketers, which is the first step toward conducting the study. It will publish a Federal Register notice seeking public comment on the proposed collection of information from approximately five large and ten smaller e-cigarette marketers. The topics the FTC seeks comment on include:

  • The need for the study and the practical utility of the information collected; the accuracy of the Commission’s burden estimates; and ways to enhance the quality and utility of the information collected and to minimize the burden of that collection;
  • Whether the FTC should seek to collect data according to: 1) the various types of products sold and given away by industry members; 2) the various flavors and nicotine strengths of those sales and giveaways; 3) the various sizes and liquid capacities of disposable e-cigarettes, cartridges, and e-liquids sold and given away; and 4) whether the company sells directly to consumers or to wholesalers and distributors;
  • Whether industry members can provide data that distinguishes between, among other things: 1) direct sales to consumers (e.g., online sales) and sales to retailers and distributors; 2) sales and giveaways of disposable e-cigarettes and sales and giveaways of refillable e-cigarettes; and 3) the various combinations of sizes, flavors, and nicotine contents of their e-cigarettes and refill cartridges and e-liquids; and
  • Whether the FTC should seek data on state-by-state sales of e-cigarettes and related products.

Public comments will be accepted until 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. Information about how to submit a paper comment can be found in the “Supplemental Information” section of the notice. Comments can also be filed electronically.

The Commission vote approving publication of the Federal Register notice was 4-0. It will be published in the Federal Register soon, and is available now on the FTC’s website as a link to this press release.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161

STAFF CONTACT:
Elizabeth Sanger
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2757