FILE - A sales associate demonstrates the use of a electronic cigarette and the smoke like vapor that comes from it in Aurora, Colo. on Wednesday, March 2, 2011. Children - like adults - are increasingly trying electronic cigarettes, according to the first large national study to gauge use by middle and high school students. About 2 percent of the students said they’d used an e-cigarette in the previous month, according to a survey done in 2012. That was up from 1 percent in 2011. Results were released Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
A consumer uses an electronic cigarette, which produce a smoke-like vapor.
AP

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is teaming up with 28 other attorney generals to urge the Food and Drug Administration to strengthen e-cigarette regulations.

Coakley is the co-sponsor of a letter urging the FDA to prohibit flavored tobacco and restrict e-cigarette advertising. The measures are meant to stem the product’s growing popularity among minors, she said in a statement:

“Imposing federal restrictions on e-cigarettes is an important first step to protect public health from the harmful impacts of tobacco, but more must be done to help keep these products out of the hands of minors,” AG Coakley said. “We urge the FDA to take additional steps to help protect youth from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new tobacco products.”

The percentage of children who use e-cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012, according to a survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Another CDC study found that calls to poison centers involving e-cigarettes increased dramatically between 2010 and 2014, from one call per month to 215 calls per month.

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In April, the FDA decided to extend its authority over e-cigarettes, proposing new health warnings and banning sales to children. The comment period for those proposals ends today. The FDA has received over 72,000 responses so far.

One of the main proponents of e-cigarettes is the tobacco giant Lorillard and its Blu eCigs brand, which controls almost half of the US market. In its comments to the FDA, the company held that e-cigarettes benefit consumers who are trying to quit smoking by providing a less-harmful alternative:

“Lorillard respectfully suggests the FDA extend discretion in the assertion of its regulatory authority... A regulated environment that maintains the status quo while effectively stifling the development and marketing to current adult smokers of [e-cigarettes]... will serve to erode, rather than promote, the public health.”

Lorillard also wrote that it “does not believe” that children are more likely to use e-cigarettes than other tobacco products, though it did not provide evidence for this claim in the report.

Coakley co-sponsored the letter to the FDA with the attorney generals from Illinois, Indiana, and New York. 25 other attorney generals have joined the letter.