A U.S. Senate hearing this afternoon will be the first Congressional hearing to focus on the FDA proposal to begin regulating electronic cigarettes. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular and there’s virtually no regulation on them at all, which he says could pose a significant threat to public health.
“This new authority is urgently needed but I’m concerned it does not go far enough,” Harkin says. “More than 5.5-million kids currently alive will ultimately die from smoking. The last thing we need is yet another way for young people to get hooked.”
Harkin and ten other Democratic lawmakers released an investigative report last month about the way e-cigarettes are being presented to the public, through the use of social media, cartoons, video games and celebrity endorsements. “Our inquiry found that manufacturers, including tobacco companies, are pouring massive resources into the marketing of e-cigarettes,” Harkin says, “and their marketing strategies are expressly designed to appeal to children.” The devices come in a variety of flavors, like chocolate, grape and strawberry, and Harkin says a CDC report found the number of high school students who’d used e-cigarettes more than doubled in just one year.
The Washington, D.C. hearing is scheduled for 1:45 P.M. CST.
On another issue, U.S. sanctions on Russia are reportedly causing significant financial harm to several American companies, including two agricultural giants with strong Iowa ties. Farm equipment maker John Deere and hybrid seed leader DuPont-Pioneer both report U.S. sanctions are having an impact on their Russian operations and sales.
Senator Harkin says the U.S. may need to pursue a new course in sending Russia a message. “I’m concerned, especially if it impacts John Deere,” Harkin says. “In all of these kind of economic sanctions, there always seems to be some unintended consequences, that’s why they have to be very, very careful.” Deere is based in the Quad Cities and is Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, while it also operates two factories in Russia.
The former Pioneer Hi-Bred International is headquartered in Johnston but owned by DuPont and is reportedly seeing deep cuts in seed purchases in Ukraine due to customers’ difficulty in getting credit. Harkin says it’s worrisome.”Sometimes economic sanctions work, depending on the circumstance, sometimes they don’t, I’m just not knowledgeable enough to know whether or not these are working against Russia,” Harkin says. “I quite doubt it since Russia’s so big and it has so many avenues of financial interests around the globe, I doubt that our financial sanctions would hurt them at all.”
Reports say U.S. companies are now doing a combined $40 billion in business in Russia each year.