Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Council Passes Bill to Regulate Electronic Cigarettes

The Council today unanimously approved my bill to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places where traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited. The bill also will restrict the sale of certain liquid nicotine or liquid nicotine containers in retail outlets unless the nicotine is in a container considered child resistant packaging.

Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigs have little odor that parents could detect, teens who have never tried traditional cigarettes are using e-cigs, putting themselves at risk for nicotine addiction, nicotine poisoning or exposure to harmful chemicals. I am not willing to gamble with the health of our current generation of young people by waiting for federal regulations. The Council did the right thing by putting these protections in place.

At a July 21 worksession on e-cigarettes, the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee received briefings from the National Institutes of Health and the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy. The briefings included a discussion of the current medical understanding of the health risks and public policy concerns with electronic cigarette usage. After the briefings, committee members discussed the use of electronic cigarettes by minors and directed staff to provide options to restricting youth access to electronic smoking devices.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate e-cigarettes. However, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gives the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products. The FDA has proposed a “deeming regulation” that would subject electronic cigarettes to FDA’s regulatory authority. It is unclear when (or whether) the FDA will issue a final rule and what the substance of that final rule will look like.

While at least 30 states have comprehensive clean indoor air laws restricting the use of lighted tobacco products in indoor public places such as bars, restaurants and office buildings, only a few have extended these provisions to include the use of electronic cigarettes. Among those states, New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah have specifically amended their clean indoor air laws to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and workplaces.

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