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Guest MINDSETTER™ Elaine C. Jones: Regulate Addictive E-Cigarettes Now

Monday, June 16, 2014

 

You may have heard – a new nicotine product is on the market and gaining lots of traction. They are widely known as electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs or vapes, and you may have seen people using them in your neighborhood, at parties, and even in restaurants. While the FDA is still working to establish rules and regulations of these products, what we do know is that the vast majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine – and nicotine is a highly addictive substance. 

Currently, e-cigarettes are not regulated whatsoever - there are no federal or state laws preventing the sale of electronic cigarettes to children. A child of any age can walk into a store right now and legally buy e-cigarettes, and as many come in kid-friendly flavors, like cotton candy, bubble gum, and cherry – it’s tempting. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use among youth doubled from 2011 to 2012.  Neurological studies have shown nicotine exposure resets the developing teenage brain, leaving it with lifelong vulnerability to relapse and re-addiction. Further, 80% of all adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18. When our youth are exposed to nicotine, whether by smoking, chewing or “vaping”, they are at risk of lifelong addiction. We must make e-cigarette sales to minors illegal to protect our youth!
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out an initial rule on their recommendations for regulation; they propose defining and regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products, which will enact the same regulations and penalties currently in law for these products.  But until the FDA recommendations go through due process – likely at least another year – e-cigarettes will remain unregulated. This leaves children vulnerable. 

States can act now to pass laws to protect youth from these highly addictive products. The RI General Assembly is currently considering legislation that would make it illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to minors. Senate Bill 3095, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and his colleagues, makes the sale of e-cigarettes to minors illegal, and as importantly, it contains provisions to enforce the law and impose tough penalties on violators.. 

The Rhode Island Medical Society recommends that bills seeking to prohibit e-cigarette sales to minors be enforceable by requiring that those who sell e-cigarettes be licensed and subject to the same inspections and penalties, including potential loss of license for multiple violations, as those that sell tobacco products to persons under age 18. Being able to check vendors and penalize them when and if they sell to minors is the only effective measure to ensure these products are kept out of the hands of our youth.

We applaud Senate Majority Leader Ruggerio's work to address the important issue of keeping electronic cigarettes out of the hands of youth.  We will all learn more about these addictive products in the coming years. We look forward to continuing to work with Majority Leader Ruggerio and the entire General Assembly on this important issue when the FDA rules are finalized and as more data is revealed on the health impact of these products. Until then, we urge the General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 3095, an enforceable law that will truly protect our youth.

Elaine C. Jones is the President of the Rhode Island Medical Society.

 

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