MA Medical Society Urges Stricter Regulation of E-Cigarettes
Monday, October 07, 2013
The pending legislation would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 as well as the distribution of free samples. It would also forbid the smoking of e-cigarettes in any venue that fell under the jurisdiction of smoke-free workplace laws.
E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are electronic inhalers that vaporize a liquid solution and can be smoked as a substitute for conventional tobacco products. The majority contains and release nicotine, and many are flavored like traditional cigarettes or cigars.
Targeted At Adolescents
“This is a brand new delivery system for an old substance – nicotine,” Dr. Fazen said. “Nicotine is a well-established, addictive drug. E-cigarettes currently do not fall under any specific regulations in Massachusetts. They are not listed as a tobacco product, nor are they listed as a tobacco cessation product.”
This lack of classification has been the largest hurdle to the product’s regulation, which has become an increasingly pressing issue with their quick rise in popularity. According to Dr. Fazen, use of e-cigarettes among high school students rose from 5% to 10% from 2011 to 2012.
Part of the draw to these products is the perception that they are safer than conventional cigarettes, though that remains up for debate. Dr. Fazen contends that they are also deliberately marketed to minors, though their sale is illegal to anyone under 18. Flavors include vivid vanilla, cherry crush, piña colada, and peach schnapps.
Neither Blu E-Cigarettes, nor Green Smoke E-Cigarettes could be reached for comment. The majority of their products are sold online, which makes the enforcement of age restrictions especially difficult.
A Safer Alternative?
“It’s all about the adolescent population and their vulnerability to addiction,” said Dr. Fazen. “Nicotine is less harmful than tobacco, but nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and it, in its own right, produces a major jolt to the brain and has been shown to have adverse affects on the brain of the developing teenager.”
“It’s not harmless, but less harmful,” he said. “It may save an adult from lung cancer or emphysema, but not from all the cardiovascular consequences.”
Thus, Dr. Fazen said, it is not wise to think of e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without the other substances found in traditional cigarettes, as safe. In addition to nicotine’s harmful effects, there is also very little known about what is contained in the liquid that is vaporized alongside the nicotine.
“There’s no regulation on what is in the nicotine pouch which is vaporized,” Dr. Fazen said. “If you package your own nicotine, you could put anything in there to be vaporized.”
Going forward, Dr. Fazen said the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to concretely classify these products so that they can face stricter regulations, and their ingredients can be more closely monitored. While e-cigarettes potentially present a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, the healthiest option still remains an all-together abstinence from smoking.
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