Legislation moving through the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate raises questions about how to best protect our youth from the dangers of e-cigarettes.
The language in HB 1690 and SB 841 mirrors bills that were written by tobacco industry lobbyists and circulated in various states. At first glance, it seems to be a genuine attempt to protect youth under age 18 from purchasing e-cigarettes.
In reality, these laws would create special product definitions for e-cigarettes outside of those that are already established for traditional tobacco products.
This creates a legal loophole that will enable the tobacco companies to evade having their new generation of tobacco-derived products regulated under current or future state or federal laws. It could also be seeking to hamper or prevent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing of these newer tobacco-derived products if they are successful in getting a number of states to adopt separate definitions.
It is the recommendation of health groups and Tobacco Free Missouri that lawmakers consider adding e-cigarettes to current tobacco product regulation. For example, the federal definition of “tobacco product” includes “… any product made or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption…”, which would include the new tobacco-derived products and electronic cigarettes.
There is a lot we don’t know about e-cigarettes. Because they are not regulated by the FDA, we are not sure what chemicals are used to create the synthetic nicotine cartridges. There is no research showing that they are effective in helping current smokers quit.
What we do know is that an increasing number of youth are trying these products every year. We know the tobacco industry is investing in these products and implementing aggressive marketing campaigns and celebrity endorsements to promote their use.
It is the best practice to use scientific research as the foundation for building sound public policy. There are proven ways to help smokers quit today and those interested should consider calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Comprehensive smoke-free policies that protect workers from breathing secondhand smoke, raising the price of tobacco products to discourage youth from becoming addicted and providing services to help current smokers to quit are all scientifically evidenced policy options to improve the health of Missourians.
While e-cigarettes may be the latest tactic for the industry to recruit new users, we will continue to advocate for those policy options we know will have the greatest impact on our state.
For more information, visit www.tobaccofreemo.org.