(Public Opinion (Chambersburg, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 16--CHAMBERSBURG -- Attorneys general from 29 states including Pennsylvania want the Food and Drug Administration to tighten regulation of the booming electronic cigarette industry.
The FDA issued proposed regulations earlier this year that would ban sales to minors, require health warnings and restrict vending machine sales.
In a letter to the FDA last week, state officials said the proposed rules did not go far enough, calling for advertising restrictions and a ban of candy and fruit flavors among other changes designed to keep them out of the hands of minors.
The letter asks for e-cigarettes to be subject to the same advertising restrictions as traditional cigarettes. It also urges the FDA to ban all "characterizing flavors" of e-cigarettes other than tobacco and menthol, similar to a rule that went into effect in 2009 for traditional cigarettes.
Battery powered electronic cigarettes heat a liquid typically containing nicotine, which produces a vapor for inhalation. The liquids come in a different flavors from apple to piña colada.
The e-cigarette businesses has grown quickly into an estimated $2 billion market, according to some estimates. Makers market the product as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes or even a way to help people quit smoking.
Evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but the long-term health effects are still unknown.
As the popularity grows, vape shops have been popping up across the country, including Franklin County.
Steve Kane recently opened a Vast Vapor shop in downtown Chambersburg, which offers about 40 different liquid flavors. He believes the reason why e-cigarettes have become so popular is because many smokers are switching.
"The whole reason I got into it myself is I used to be a two-pack-a-day smoker for 17 years, and the day I got myself set up, I instantly switched," Kane said.
Nearby on North Main Street, Traci Whitfield recently opened The Vape House, which sells e-cigs and clothing. Her story was similar.
"I smoked for 25 years and tried everything to quit, including Chantix," She said. "It was the only thing that allowed me to quit and be successful. Nothing else has ever worked. The most I ever made it was three months and I was back to smoking. I knew that if it worked for me, there had to be something to this."
Both Kane and Whifield support prohibiting sales to minors but disagree with some of the proposed regulations.
"I do think there should be certain regulations," Whitfield said. "But should the regulations for cigarettes and e-cigarettes be the same? No, I don't think so."
Kane's company was one of many groups that submitted comments to the FDA on the proposal.
"There need to be regulations, but the FDA needs to create a second category specifically to e-cigarettes," he said.
Flavors are "absolutely imperative," according to Kane. He said the flavors help keep smokers off cigarettes.
He added that at a store level he will do everything he can to keep them out of the hands of minors, but ultimately, it's up to the parents.
Last year, attorneys general from 41 states, including Pennsylvania, pressed the federal government to address advertising and sales of electronic cigarettes to minors.
In the meantime, many states have already passed bills of their own that prohibit sales to minors. In Pennsylvania, bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate.
In 2010, New Jersey became the first state to ban the use of e-cigarettes in indoor public places. Some cities, such as Philadelphia, have followed suit.
Like the attorneys general, the American Lung Association and a number of public health groups are calling for tougher regulations.
The groups told the FDA last week that e-cigarettes should be subject to the same advertising and marketing restrictions as cigarettes and that "characterizing flavors" should be banned because of their appeal to young people.
"The deeming of all tobacco products as subject to FDA's regulatory authority is critical to protecting the public health against the risks posed by an increasingly dynamic and diverse marketplace in tobacco products and ensuring continued, and accelerated, progress toward eliminating tobacco-related disease and death," the health groups wrote. "However, the proposed rule must be strengthened, and made comprehensive in scope, to prevent the manufacturers of tobacco products from designing and marketing their products in ways that undercut the full potential of the Tobacco Control Act to achieve its lifesaving objectives."
Read the entire letter from attorneys general to the FDA at http://www.scribd.com/doc/236632295/Letter-to-FDA
Marcus Rauhut can be reached at 262-4752.
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