By Dr. Ernest Levister
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) has introduced federal legislation that will classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products, prohibit their sale to minors, and ban flavors other than menthol.
The Stop Selling and Marketing to Our Kids E-Cigarettes (SMOKE) Act is intended to deter kids from vaping. The bill would also require child-proof e-cig packaging and prohibit television advertising for e-cigs, among other provisions.
“The industry has lured children and teenagers with aggressive marketing tactics to use its products. With flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy, and chocolate cake, our kids are literally vaping these things up,” Speier said in a statement. “With ads using sex and sex appeal, our teens are lusting after these objects. It’s time to regulate these products and protect our children.”
Most of the smaller “cigalikes” owned by big tobacco companies are designed to taste like cigarettes, but flavoring is an essential part of vape culture for people who opt for larger vaporizers with replaceable parts. A recent study by a University of California, San Diego medical team concluded that there are roughly 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes ranging from melon to popcorn to “freckle-faced dragonberry.”
Meanwhile the public will have more time to weigh in on a federal proposal to regulate electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The Food and Drug Administration said last week that the public comment period slated to end July 9 is being extended an additional 30 days to Aug. 8 after getting lots of input on how to regulate e-cigarettes. Those are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. The FDA also proposed extending its authority to regulate cigars, hookahs, nicotine gels and pipe tobacco.
In April, the FDA proposed banning sales of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, adding warning labels and requiring agency approval for new products. But the FDA didn’t immediately place any marketing restrictions on e-cigarette makers or ban fruit or candy flavors, which are barred for use in regular cigarettes. The agency has left the door open to further regulations, but says it wants more evidence before it rushes into more restrictions.