On Thursday, April 24, the State Senate approved a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to youth and investing in tobacco prevention and cessation in Connecticut. Legislation voted in favor of the bill unanimously, 35-0, which then moves to the House for consideration.
“Connecticut should move swiftly to adopt laws that keep tobacco products out of the hands of our young people,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who introduced the bill on March 12. “I applaud the Senators who voted for this bill, and especially want to thank Senate President Williams, Senate Majority Leader Looney, and Children’s Committee co-chair Senator Bartolomeo for their leadership on this critical issue that will reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related illnesses and help keep our youngsters healthy.”
The state bill also aims to reduce the number of tobacco retailers committing repeat offenses by implementing a tobacco prevention education program for first-time offenders, to crack down on the sale of loose cigarettes, and to invest in tobacco prevention and cessation efforts.
Also on Thursday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a rule expanding the FDA’s tobacco authority to cover additional tobacco products, like e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco and nicotine gel. The FDA currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco.
“Tobacco remains the leading cause of death and disease in this country. This is an important moment for consumer protection and a significant proposal that if finalized as written would bring FDA oversight to many new tobacco products,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D in a statement. “Science-based product regulation is a powerful form of consumer protection that can help reduce the public health burden of tobacco use on the American public, including youth.”
An article in Scientific American on April 25, discusses the federal dilemma of whether to treat e-cigarettes as a health hazard, like tobacco, or whether they are an acceptable alternative to the inhalation of carcinogenic tar with a cigarette.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine, flavoring and the synthetic liquid propylene glycol. The FDA approves the synthetic chemical for use in certain foods, drinks and soaps, but it is uncertain what the health effect of inhaling it into the lungs is.
According to Scientific American, targeting youth with kid-friendly flavors, like watermelon and bubblegum, and with TV and radio advertising is still allowable under the FDA ruling. As the appeal of these products to youth might increase nicotine overdoses, there is increased concern over the long-term effect of vaporizing.
In February, the European Parliament ruled that nicotine levels in e-cigarettes should be regulated by member states, as in the United States, since long-term public health effects of these products are not yet known. “Only ingredients of high purity may be used in the nicotine-containing liquid, and e-cigarettes will be required to deliver the nicotine doses at consistent levels under normal conditions of use,” stated the ruling.
The EP also ruled the packaging of e-cigarettes be child- and tamper-proof and need to labeled with health warnings, informing users of tobacco addictiveness and toxicity.
The proposed rule will be available for public comment for 75 days, particular on the questions on whether all cigars should be included in the ruling and how products that do not involve the burning of tobacco and smoke inhalation, like e-cigarettes, affect public health.
Under the proposed rule, makers of newly deemed tobacco products would be required to:
• Register with the FDA and report product and ingredient listings
• Only market new tobacco products after FDA review
• Only make direct and implied claims of reduced risk if the FDA confirms that scientific evidence supports the claim and that marketing the product will benefit public health as a whole; and
• Not distribute free samples.
Additionally, newly recognized tobacco products would be subject to:
• Minimum age and identification restrictions to prevent sales to underage youth
• Requirements to include health warnings
• Prohibition of vending machine sales, unless in a facility that never admits youth
“Our firm recommendation is people need to get combusted tobacco products [out] of their lives,” Tim McAfee, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Office of Smoking and Health, told Scientific American. “We don’t think e-cigs are going away, what we can do is think about what we can do to minimize the danger.”