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Are E-Cigarettes Fueled by Liquid Nicotine Safe?

Legislation proposed at both the state and federal level aims to curtail marketing and sale to minors, while a new report on the potential toxicity of the liquid leads to calls for the FDA to step in, too.

An e-cigarette. Credit: Contributed Photo
An e-cigarette. Credit: Contributed Photo

By Gary Jeanfaivre

The rapid rise of what has become a billion dollar industry — and one that some toxicologists say poses a significant risk to public health — has lawmakers at all levels of government scrambling to add accountability to the unregulated sale of liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes.

report published Sunday by The New York Times offers insight into liquid nicotine's far-reaching impacts in the U.S. And it has prompted renewed calls for regulation, including from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

“Exploding use — misuse and abuse — of liquid nicotine make federal regulation even more vital to stop poisoning and other public health hazards," Blumenthal said. "E-liquids are the new snake oil of cigarette marketing – with purity and potency varying widely, and no safeguards. The FDA must act immediately to forestall imminent public health threats from e-cigarettes and toxic nicotine e-liquids.”

The Times article referenced statistics that showed the number of cases of children being poisoned by liquid nicotine is on the rise. The rate at which youngsters are trying e-cigarettes is also climbing.

"A study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics reported that 3.3 percent of 6th to 12th graders said they’d tried e-cigarettes in 2011. In 2012 the number more than doubled, to 6.8 percent," according to a report published by Business Week.

The Business Week article highlighted a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Protecting Children From Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act of 2014.

Meanwhile, many states have already started to take action. More than two dozen have enacted legislation that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and other related devices to minors.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants his state to become the next. 

Malloy has proposed Senate Bill No. 24, An Act Concerning the Governor’s Recommendations Regarding Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Youth Smoking Prevention, which would, among other things, ban the sale of e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems, and other vapor products to minors under the age of 18.

The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle earlier this month when the General Assembly’s Committee on Children unanimously approved it. The bill has since been referred to the Office of Legislative Research and the Office of Fiscal Analysis. Read the full text of the proposed law.

According to the website VaporSearchUSA.com, there are 17 stores that sell e-cigarettes in Connecticut. All of them list "e-liquid" nicotine as a product they carry. The website also maintains a database of vendors for all 50 states.

“It is sold all over the place. It is ubiquitous in society,” Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System and a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Times.

At least one liquid nicotine distributor told The Times they welcome some regulation.

Read the full NYT article on their website.

Rachael Clark March 25, 2014 at 03:20 PM
What bothers me is people are doing it inside cafés, food establishments, theaters etc; the city needs to develop an ordinance to treat this the same as cigarettes.
Igor March 25, 2014 at 04:42 PM
Personally i would like an independent study done, with no one that has anything to gain before the government gets their sticky hands in it. Pro and against. A honest one for a change. Unlike the pols they take in this country.
timothy March 25, 2014 at 08:59 PM
Rachel. Why do you have a problem with the ecigs? I have many problems with regular cigs but I have absolutely no issues with ecigs. I am I close range of where they smoke and I don't smell anything. So what is your issue or are you imagining an issue?
Frank March 25, 2014 at 10:28 PM
I see no problem with these e-cigs and they should cause no public concern. My preference, however, is to stick with the tried and true- real tobacco. At the very least, it doesn't cause a new debate. The last thing we need is more silly crap for people to get riled up about over nothing. Like it or not, we're all going to die some day. Some will be hit by cars, some will be shoved out of windows, I'll keel over on my front porch sucking on a Kool. Sounds like a rather pleasant way to go by comparison.

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