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FTC Seeks Comment on E-Cigarette Marketing Study

E-cigarette marketers could be in the government's sights.

The Federal Trade Commission said Monday it wants to start studying how the devices, which provide a smokeless alternative delivery system for various chemicals, usually including nicotine the FTC points out.

The FTC would issue information requests to e-cigarette marketers (five large and 10 smaller companies), but says it first has to get clearance from the Office of Management and Budget for the study.

Before it conducts the study, the FTC said, it will seek public comment on how it should proceed, including the need for such a study, how useful the information could be, the FTC's estimate of the burden of the collection on the marketers, how to enhance the utility of the information and minimize the collection burdens.

It also wants to know:

"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."

The FTC will give the public 60 days to comment after it has published the request in the Federal Register, which it said would happen "soon."

Regular cigarettes have not been advertised on TV since 1971, when the industry agreed to accept a federal ban on radio and TV ads.

"The FTC is finally catching up with the latest way tobacco companies want to hook new smokers," said Jeff Chester, executive director of Citizens for Digital Democracy. "Given the role that online marketing can play that could help the e-cig industry ignite a new epidemic, the FTC should call for the strict regulation of these cigarettes disguised as fun and harmless hip devices."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.