As I mentioned in my last blog, my office, the California Tobacco Control Program, is rapidly trying to bring California up to speed with other states in regulating e-cigarettes. While I have mainly been working on comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on the rule that they recently proposed on regulating e-cigarettes, our e-cigarette team (only four of us in an office of over 50 people!) is also struggling to tighten regulations in California.
While California has the longest and most successful state tobacco control program in the nation, its current regulations on e-cigarettes are much more relaxed than those in many other states. Currently, California only has restrictions on selling e-cigarettes to minors, or anyone under 18. That is it! For a product that is potentially just as bad as traditional cigarettes, we have a lot of work to do. For example, New Jersey has included e-cigarettes in its Clean Indoor Air Laws to ban smoking indoors, Vermont has regulations to make e-liquid packaging childproof (so children won’t accidentally drink it) and Oregon and Oklahoma have laws to tax e-cigarettes.
One of the reasons that we have been tracking what other states are doing is so that we can see what is possible for California to achieve without the possibility of a lawsuit from the tobacco industry. I have spent a lot of time researching facts about the dangers of e-cigarettes to bolster our case for regulation. However, because e-cigarettes are so new, there are very few long-term studies and data on the health effects of smoking e-cigarettes and their addictiveness. I’m confident that all states will soon be passing more and more regulations to eventually regulate e-cigarettes to the same extent as conventional cigarettes.
On a non-policy related note, my office is right next to California’s capitol (and Governor Jerry Brown’s office!) It is so nice to be able to walk through the Capitol gardens during lunch or read a book there. And, because we are currently experiencing a horrible drought, it really is sunny in California every day.