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FTC to Put E-Cigs Under the Microscope

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans to begin a study of the U.S. sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes. To conduct the study, the agency will issue information requests to e-cigarette marketers and will 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.

The FTC is seeking clearance from the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) 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 10 smaller e-cigarette marketers.

The topics the FTC seeks comment on the following:

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.

Whether the FTC should seek data on state-by-state sales of e-cigarettes and related products.

The FTC will accept public comments until 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register.

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