Electronic cigarettes represent a growing market share of the cigarette industry but, unlike chewing tobacco and traditional cigarettes, they contain no tobacco and are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A Bloomberg News editorial in The Journal Gazette Aug. 21 called for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes.
Organizations such as the American Lung Association have urged the FDA to halt the sale and distribution of all e-cigarettes unless the products have been reviewed and approved for sale by the agency.
E-cigarettes are a battery-operated, flameless, odorless product that produces a water vapor instead of smoke and is used in the same manner as a regular cigarette.
The market for these products has rapidly expanded. The makers have created e-cigarettes in many shapes and sizes and flavors. Some look like traditional cigarettes, while others resemble cigars or pipes. While e-cigarettes are not a tobacco product, they still contain nicotine, the highly addictive drug found in regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are particularly enticing to young people because of their flavored nicotine cartridges such as chocolate and strawberry. They are touted as a safer alternative to traditional smoking and are easily accessible on the Internet and at mall kiosks. While they are promoted as a safer alternative to tobacco products, limited research on e-cigarettes makes it difficult to fully understand their risks.
Here in Indiana, we have already implemented a new law which limits young Hoosiers access to e-cigarettes. This past session, I authored House Enrolled Act 1225, which prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18. The law, which went into effect on July 1, applies the same sales regulations to e-cigarettes that are already in place on regular cigarettes.
Minors are not allowed to buy traditional tobacco cigarettes and should not have access to e-cigarettes either. This bill had wide support, including backing from the manufacturers of e-cigarettes, and is a great first step.
As the FDA begins its regulatory action this fall, I am proud that Indiana did not take a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to the health and welfare of our young people.
I hope that the FDA will take note of this and further study the long-term effects of e-cigarettes – not just for minors but for the safety of us all.