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Senators Accuse E-Cig Executives of Marketing to Kids

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U.S. senators are taking aim at e-cigarette executives for allegedly targeting children. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

"Gummy bear pink spot. Rocket pop. cotton candy," said Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.

"You can see our old friend Joe Camel—and our new friend who is Mr. Cool," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Executives from Blu and NJOY, two leading electronic cigarettes companies were under fire during a senate hearing on Capitol Hill last week.

"How can you sit here and say you're not marketing to children?" Boxer said.

The senators are waging war against what they call a renewed attempt to get children and teens hooked to nicotine products, likening it to the Big Tobacco fight of the 90s.

"It's imperative to restrict youth exposure to e-cigarettes. Simply stated, children and teens should not be guinea pigs as we await more conclusive research," said Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia.

E-cigarette executives argued that the fruity, fun flavors used are favorites of their adult clients and that advertisement was geared solely toward adults who are looking to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal displayed an ad featuring the Twilight teen franchise star Robert Pattinson smoking an NJoy and directed his question at NJOY CEO and President Craig Weiss.

BLUMENTHAL: "Do you deny in your testimony today that this ad that the use of this image is designed to appeal to children and teenagers?"
WEISS: "I do."
BLUMENTHAL: "Why?"
WEISS: "Because he's a 28-year-old adult."

Experts pointed to the Center for Disease Control's National Youth Tobacco Survey that showed e-cigarette use among teens more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, and that calls to poison control centers about liquid nicotine have spiked from one per month in 2010 to 215 per month in 2014.

"The adolescent brain appears uniquely susceptible to nicotine addiction, with symptoms of dependence appearing within days to weeks of intermittent nicotine use," said Dr. Susanne Tanski of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Senators and health experts say until more is known about the impact of inhaling nicotine vapors, there should be strict regulations against how the products are advertised—similar to restrictions placed on traditional tobacco products.

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