Hawaii calling on FDA to regulate e-cigarettes

Published On: Sep 24 2013 10:47:51 AM HST
Updated On: Sep 24 2013 11:42:44 AM HST
E-cigarette smoker
HONOLULU -

Emphasizing the need for immediate regulatory oversight of electronic cigarettes, Attorney General Louie Tuesday urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place restrictions on the advertising and ingredients of the popular, highly-addictive product, and to prohibit its sale to minors.

In a bipartisan letter co-sponsored by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, and joined by 38 other Attorneys General, AG Louie urges the FDA to take all available measures to regulate e-cigarettes as "tobacco products" under the Tobacco Control Act.

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E-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread product that is growing rapidly among both youth and adults, are battery operated products that heat liquid nicotine derived from tobacco plants, into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

State Attorneys General have fought for years to protect people from the dangers of tobacco products.   In 1998, the Attorneys General of 52 states and territories signed a landmark agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to recover billions of dollars in costs associated with smoking-related illnesses and to restrict cigarette advertising to prevent youth smoking.

Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes.  Noting the growing use of e-cigarettes and the growing prevalence of advertising, the letter highlights the need to protect youth from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products.

A survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2011 to 2012, the percentages of youth who have tried or currently use e-cigarettes have roughly doubled.  The survey estimates that nearly 1.8 million middle and high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine is highly addictive, has immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses. The lack of regulation of e-cigarettes puts youth at risk of developing a lifelong addiction to a potentially dangerous product that could also act as a gateway to using other tobacco products.

E-cigarette manufacturers are using marketing tactics similar to those big tobacco used in the last 50 to 100 years to attract new smokers. Celebrity endorsements, television advertising, cartoons, fruit flavors, attractive packaging and cheap prices all serve to encourage youth consumption of these dangerous products.

Additionally, some manufacturers’ marketing campaigns claim that these products do not contain the same level of toxins and carcinogens found in traditional cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. These claims imply that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, when in fact nicotine is highly addictive, the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied, the ingredients are not regulated, and may still contain carcinogens. The lack of regulation puts the public at risk because users of e-cigarettes are inhaling unknown chemicals with unknown effects.

In 2013, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 227, which expressly prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 years. Notwithstanding Hawaii's proactive approach, Attorney General Louie believes that participating in the nationwide effort to regulate e-cigarettes is critical to ensuring that Hawaii’s youth are protected from manufacturers’ efforts to make e-cigarettes attractive and easily accessible.

The letter was co-sponsored by Attorney General Louie, along with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The other states joining the letter to the FDA are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, and Wyoming. The copy of the letter to the FDA is attached below and can also be found here: http://www.naag.org/sign-on_archive.php.

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