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.
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Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection