After years of consideration, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed new regulations for electronic cigarettes. The proposal includes banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and providing warning labels. This announcement was released in time with a similar declaration from police in Canada warning parents across the country that students at some high schools have been caught using e-cigarettes to get high. This announcement comes at the time when many parents are concerned for their children’s well being, and e-cigarettes are a legitimate concern for them.
Electronic cigarettes, which are growing in popularity across Canada and the U.S., are battery-powered devices that heat liquid flavor cartridges,which are nicknamed “juice,” to produce a vapor that closely resembles smoke from an actual cigarette. Students are replacing the usual “juice” with marijuana oil, and because e-cigarettes do not emit odor, it is hard for school staff and police to realize what the students are smoking.
In Canada, police are worried as the use of e-cigarettes becomes a trend, because marijuana oil is significantly more potent than the marijuana contained in joints. The primary concern remains the health of the youth, who may be consuming a very high content of THC. In marijuana oil, THC content is often around 90 percent, while in marijuana joints, the content of THC is roughly 10 to 20 percent.
The FDA rules will not take effect until they go through the public comment process, and there is also a possibility that they could be challenged in court. In Missouri, the legislature has already approved a bill barring the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and it has been sent to the governor, Jay Nixon. If signed by Nixon, the bill would go into effect August 28. State Representative Caleb Rowden sponsored the House bill and said that this was an important step towards regulation of e-cigarettes and other “vapor products.” In a statement made by Rowden, he expressed his desire for regulation of e-cigarettes and outlined his strong belief in the FDA ruling.
Electronic cigarettes are often used to heat a nicotine solution, creating a vapor without any of the toxins of regular tobacco cigarettes. These vapors or “juice” can come in a variety of flavors and critics claim that this makes the cigarette marketable to children. In 2013, a Center for Disease Control study indicated that one in 10 high school students had tried e-cigarettes in 2012, a number significantly higher than the percentage that had tried e-cigarettes in 2011. This trend is enough to cause legitimate concern for parents, whose children may be developing addictions to nicotine, experimenting with other drugs, and bringing harm to their health through the use of e-cigarettes.
Some have criticized the bill, saying that there is a provision that exempts these products from being taxed or regulated the same way tobacco products are. So far, the only state that has a specific tax on e-cigarettes is Minnesota. However, other states such as New Jersey, Washington and Utah have considered introducing a specific tax.
In some states, e-cigarettes have been grouped together with tobacco products. However, there are also seven states which have passed bills supporting the e-cigarette industry with new definitions like “alternative nicotine products” and “vapor products.” Meanwhile, grouping tobacco and vapor products together would create a negative association for e-cigarettes, which could act as an extra preventative measure to protect youth.
State Representative Jill Schupp has made it clear that creating a new definition for e-cigarettes and exempting them from regulations could limit the ability of the FDA to impose future regulations on vapor products. Such action removes authority from FDA, and could prove to be negative in the future as more studies are done on e-cigarette use and human health.“Even though the FDA did come out with regulations that increase the taxes on e-cigarette products we need to leave the door open,” Schupp said. “We know that it takes more than just not selling these products to 18-year-olds to stop young people from smoking.”
Meanwhile, the FDA is considering imposing restrictions on advertising and packaging of e-cigarettes and other vapor products in order to discourage the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, however it has yet to impose any of these preventative regulations. The use of e-cigarettes among teens is a legitimate cause for concern for many parents who are reminded to be aware that there is not enough information about the products to know how they will affect the health of their children. The parents are also asked to talk with their youth about the use of drugs.
By Ivelina Kunina