Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy recently held a public hearing on proposed regulations that would take on the alarming increase of so-called “e-cigarettes” in the state by treating electronic devices used to deliver nicotine like cigarettes. Free samples of nicotine vapor products would be banned, child-proof packaging on nicotine liquids would be mandatory, a minimum purchase age of 18 would be put in place, and retail stores would be required to keep the products behind the counter at stores.
Massachusetts has lagged behind the rest of the country in prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, with 42 other states having already banned the devices to under-aged residents. We applaud Attorney General Healy for taking on this important issue as electronic cigarettes grow increasingly popular among young people nationwide.
The proposed new consumer protection regulations seek to address the issue on the state level, while the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to grapple with how best to regulate these devices. Use of these products is growing at an alarming rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the annual Youth Tobacco Survey reported that the use of these devices among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, with 13% of high school students stating they use electronic cigarettes.
The measure has support from a number of key legislators including Senators Harriette Chandler and Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, both of whom have introduced bills to regulate electronic cigarettes. In addition, a number of public health advocacy organizations, including Tobacco Free Mass, as well as various organizations representing retailers in the state, have indicated their general support for the regulations.
The tobacco industry continues to target our youth with their new, cheap, sweet, and easy-to-get products that are not covered by current regulations. The lack of regulations sends the wrong message to youth that these products are safe. There is mounting evidence that e-cigarettes appeal to youth who would not smoke conventional cigarettes. Nicotine-addicted youth would then be at increased risk of transitioning to conventional cigarettes.
An American Academy of Pediatrics policy from 2009 was reaffirmed in 2013 that highlights several key overarching principles:
Furthermore, nicotine liquid for e-cigarettes poses a significant hazard for poisonous ingestion and calls to poison control and emergency departments due to toxic ingestion have risen greatly.
In consideration of all these risks, we strongly encourage the adoption of these important regulations that we believe will protect the health of our patients and citizens of the Commonwealth.