Electronic Cigarettes: Are They A Menace to Minors?
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Lacey Underall of E-Cig.org for her comment below clarifying that the bill mentioned in this post bans ALL sales of electronic cigarettes in California absent action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, not just sales to minors. This post has been changed accordingly. Lacey also notes: “The bill also was changed so that ANY product that vaporizers nicotine is not allowed for sale in the state of California. As the wording was very loose, it makes one wonder if this means that all theatrical fog machines will be taken off of the market as well.”)
Sales of electronic cigarettes would be banned in California under a measure awaiting action by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The bill is one of the 700-odd pieces of legislation sent to the GOP governor by the Legislature before it adjourned for the year on September 11. He has 30 days to act on them or the bills become law without his signature.
Schwarzenegger has taken no position on the electronic cigarette measure.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered, nicotine-dispensing devices, usually shaped like cigarettes, cigars or pens. A heating element or atomizer vaporizes a liquid solution of nicotine in the device’s mouthpiece, allowing it to be inhaled.
A “smoker” can choose the level of nicotine they desire, including zero, and a variety of flavors for the “smoke.”
Among the flavors are mint, orange, coffee, vanilla and strawberry. Some electronic cigarettes try to mimic the taste of cigarette brands like Marlboro.
San Leandro Democratic Sen. Ellen Corbett, the author of the measure, argues the flavors are designed to entice minors into smoking. And that the devices are easily accessible to minors through shopping mall kiosks.
The Electronic Cigarette Association, an industry trade group, says its products are aimed only at smokers of legal age and that flavor preferences are “universal and not age-specific.”
“(The) E-Cig will provide smokers an experience similar to smoking a traditional cigarette without the fire, flame, tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide, ash, stub or smell found in real cigarettes.”
Both Smoking Everywhere’s website and that of NJOY, another e-cigarette maker, require visitors to click on a box saying they are 18 years of age or older.
Corbett’s bill, SB 400, would halt all sales of e-cigarettes that have not been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
So far, no brands of electronic cigarettes have been approved or rejected. That’s because, as the Electronic Cigarette Association notes, the “FDA currently only has jurisdiction to regulate drugs and medical devices and electronic cigarettes are neither.”
Corbett’s bill would classify electronic cigarettes as a drug, allowing FDA intervention.
““These products can be dangerous and are being targeted to minors at mall kiosks and by offering flavored nicotine cartridges,” said Corbett in a July statement. “Until the Food and Drug Administration begins to regulate these products, it is imperative that the state steps up to protect its children.”
In July, the FDA issued the results of a laboratory analysis of two types of electronic cigarettes. The analysis found traces of carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, which is used in antifreeze.
The third paragraph of the FDA press release announcing the test results reads:
“These products are marketed and sold to young people and are readily available online and in shopping malls. In addition, these products do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. They are also available in different flavors, such as chocolate and mint, which may appeal to young people.”
In its response to the FDA study, NJOY said that since its products went on the market in April 2007 there have been “no reports of significant adverse health consequences.”
The company also said it doesn’t market its products to children and takes “affirmative steps” to ensure they aren’t sold to minors, such as placement of the products in retail stores.
As for the antifreeze element, NJOY notes that doesn’t apply to its product that was tested.
“(The) FDA’s report simply shows that the products contain certain tobacco-specific impurities at much lower levels than conventional cigarettes,” NJOY said.
Smoking Everywhere filed a lawsuit in April in Washington D.C. federal court challenging FDA jurisdiction over its products.
In the first action of its kind in the country, the Oregon Department of Justice reached a settlement announced July 30 with two retailers in which the retailers agreed not to sell NJOY E-Cigs in Oregon until they are either approved by the FDA or a court rules the FDA does not have the authority to regulate electronic cigarettes.
When first introduced in February, Corbett’s bill made the manufacture of California “green” vehicles eligible for subsidies. It passed the Senate in that form but was gutted and changed in the Assembly on June 23 to ban electronic cigarettes.
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