EDITORIAL: Proposed e-cig ban for minors welcome [The Honolulu Star-Advertiser :: ]
(Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 26--The federal government has taken a necessary first step into the regulation of electronic cigarettes, stepping into a zone where state lawmakers have, so far, feared to tread.
Although current efforts by state legislators have failed to draw critical boundaries for the use, sale and marketing of "e-cigarettes," this week the Food and Drug Administration has all but settled some of the issues raised in the last bill standing in the state Capitol, Senate Bill 2495.
Lawmakers would be wise to watch how this plays out in Washington and see whether there is a need for further action in the local market.
E-cigarettes convert a nicotine-infused liquid to a vapor that is inhaled, but without the cancer-causing compounds emitted by conventional tobacco cigarettes.
Under the proposed rule, which now will go through a period of public comment, the FDA would take several actions to constrain use:
>> Ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, requiring proof of age to be shown at the point of purchase.
>> Prohibit the distribution of free samples.
>> Ban selling e-cigarettes in vending machines, except for those installed in places inaccessible to minors.
>> Require warnings on the product stating that e-cigarettes contain the addictive drug nicotine.
>> Compel manufacturers to disclose the ingredients in products.
The federal agency left the door open to further regulation, such as bans on advertising e-cigarettes and marketing strategies that target the underage buyer.
For example, the FDA has declined, so far, to restrict the use of fruit and candy flavors in the vaporizing product that, critics contend, are meant to appeal to kids.
Those are areas state lawmakers should revisit in the 2015 legislative session.
The proposed federal regulation define as "tobacco products" items omitted from the 2009 tobacco control law. E-cigarettes qualify, according to the FDA, because their principal ingredient, nicotine, is a tobacco derivative. Others now covered by rulemaking include water pipe tobacco and nicotine gels.
Some manufacturers of e-cigarettes have argued that their product can work as a smoking-cessation product because it provides some of the satisfaction smokers seek from tobacco cigarettes without delivering carcinogens.
There may be some validity to that argument, but others say easy availability of the product is likely to awaken an interest in smoking in a new generation of customers.
In any case, the potential benefits and risks require more study. FDA officials have said a separate approval as a quit-smoking aid would be needed, a clearance issued by the agency's Center for Drugs or Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Debate on all these points is sure to be vigorous, but at least certain issues seem indisputable. The e-cigarette industry has enjoyed a freewheeling period of unregulated merchandising to a global market. For a product that can affect the health of teens and pre-teens, it's good that this laissez-faire attitude is coming to an end.
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