Last week I started working in Sacramento for the California Tobacco Control Department on the very controversial topic of e-cigarettes. So far, my main task has been to draft a letter of concerns to the FDA and create a pamphlet to inform the public on the dangers of e-cigarettes. With recent (very large) budget cuts to many government programs in California, our department is not only struggling with the new concerns of e-cigarettes, but also the future of tobacco prevention in California.
E-cigarettes are currently one of the most controversial topics in tobacco regulation. The FDA issued a long awaited proposed rule on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes just over a month ago, causing states, e-cigarette manufacturers and sellers and the public to weigh in on the topic.
As an intern for the Tobacco Control Department at the California Department of Public Health, I have been given the task of conveying the concerns that the CDPH has with the new rule to the FDA as well as the public. The current FDA ruling prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, requires nicotine health warnings on packaging and advertising, requires ingredients to be disclosed, prohibits free samples and requires all manufactures to register their e-cigarette product with the FDA. While this may sound like strict regulation to many who see e-cigarettes as helping people to quit smoking, the CDPH feels that they are not strict enough. The reason? E-cigarettes do NOT actually help most people quit and actually act as a potential gateway into the use of traditional cigarettes.
Here are the actual facts on e-cigarettes:
- The use of e-cigarettes has more than doubled from 2011 to 2012 among students in grades 6-12, and research has shown that kids who never before smoked cigarettes are now becoming addicted to e-cigarettes
- E-cigarettes contain nicotine, and while some cigarette smokers are successfully using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, more are using them in tandem with e-cigarettes and continuing to smoke both
- While e-cigarettes emit vapor instead of smoke, this vapor contains nicotine as well as other harmful chemicals used in pesticides and embalming dead bodies. These chemicals are harmful not just to smokers but also to others through second-hand smoke.
- E-liquids, used in e-cigarettes, come in many fruit and candy flavors which are very enticing to young children. The occurrence reports to poison control centers of children ingesting these liquids has risen over ten-fold in just over a year.
For these reasons, California is advocating for more restrictions on e-cigarettes. CDPH and many other state health departments are pushing for legislation that would regulate e-cigarettes to the same extent as regular cigarettes. A few recommendations that we are advocating for include: child resistant packaging, banning flavored liquids, restricting advertising and marketing, including e-cigarettes in Clean Air Laws (so that they couldn’t be smoked inside or in public places), and including ingredient information and warning labels on all e-cigarette packages.
After two weeks of work, I can definitively say: DON’T SMOKE CIGARETTES OR E-CIGARETTES!!