While the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) has been dramatically effective in combating youth smoking, the landscape has changed since the execution of the agreement over 20 years ago.
New types of tobacco and nicotine-based products continue to enter the market. Some of these products may come within the scope of the MSA while others do not. Attorneys general, with the support of the NAAG Center for Tobacco and Public Health, continue to monitor the marketing and sale of these products, as well as youth usage of the products.
In 2013, NAAG called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes as tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act. In their letter, the attorneys general raised several issues:
- E-cigarette appeals to youth, such as fruit and candy flavors and the use of cartoons in advertisements.
- The absence of a federal age restriction preventing children from obtaining e-cigarettes.
- The sales growth of e-cigarettes and the lack of federal advertising restrictions.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was later amended in 2019, raising the federal minimum age for tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) to 21. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have passed laws to regulate the sale of flavored tobacco products that appeal to youth.
Attorneys general have more recently brought enforcement actions against e-cigarette retailers, the vast majority for targeting youth, failing to verify age, and furthering the “vaping epidemic.” The attorneys general allege that e-cigarette manufacturers are repeating the same patterns of misleading and deceptive acts initially practiced by tobacco companies marketing cigarettes before the MSA.
Several attorneys general have charged e-cigarette companies with:
- Targeting youth through appealing flavors, advertising and social media tactics, and devices that can easily be concealed from parents and teachers.
- Illegally selling products to minors and failing to require age verification.
- Failing to warn consumers about the health and safety risks associated with e-cigarette products.
- Misrepresenting e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
- Misleading consumers about the highly addictive quality of e-cigarettes.
- Marketing products as smoking cessation devices without FDA approval.
- Failing to obtain the appropriate licenses.