Mention electronic cigarettes and you find lovers and haters of a product that has sparked a $1.7 billion industry here in the U.S., and falls into a grey area when it comes to legislation. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating products with tobacco, yet e-cigarettes contain none despite its name. Currently, most federal laws do not cover e-cigarettes.
States are just as confused when it comes to enforcing laws regarding the sales of the product, but they can work faster than the federal government to regulate this product out of the hands of minors. Of the states which introduced new legislation in 2013 to clear up the confusion about e-cigarettes, “Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina passed bills” regarding minors and e-cigarettes. Other states have worked to add e-cigarettes to the bans already in place on indoor smoking and to limit advertising. More states are working to discuss bans at their spring legislative sessions.
Florida’s spring legislative session will see measure SB224 brought forward after approval from two committees. “Nicotine dispensing devices”, which includes e-cigarettes, will be added to the list of tobacco products prohibited for sale to anyone under 18 years of age. It will also be” illegal for minors to possess such electronic cigarettes and products,” as well as “make it a second-degree misdemeanor to sell e-cigarettes and related products” to them.
According to the spring 2012 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey “3.9% of middle school and 8.4% of high school students have tried electronic cigarettes at least once.” Compare 2011 figures with those of 2012 and the increases are dramatic; use increased 30.0% among middle school and 40.0% among high school. When you compare the current 2013 figures with those from 2011, be in for a shock; use has increased by 43.3% among middle school, but a whooping 101.7% among high school students in just two-year time period, and those figures are just from Florida!
National figures for high school students who “reported ever using an e-cigarette” show that use more than doubled between 2011 and 2012; from 4.7% in 2011 to 10.0% in 2012. with more than 1.78 million students in middle and high school in the U.S. having tried e-cigarettes, according to the CDC. So why is the e-cigarette craze so troubling to health officials?
E-cigarettes started out being sold as kits on the internet and mall kiosks by independent retailers. Since the Big Three (Altria, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds) got into the market more single-use cheap e-cigarettes are now showing up in convenience stores and are easily accessible to teens, like those pictured to the left and above. These devices have the look of a regular cigarette or cigar, provide 150-400 puffs of vaporized nicotine (which is like smoking two to three packs of regular cigarettes) and cost about $6.00. They are a nicotine delivery device that is easily hidden from parents, and produce no tell-tale lingering tobacco smoke smell on clothes or breath. It is also unclear how much nicotine and other chemicals a user is truly inhaling.
Florida hopes to put their new measure in place to stop the tobacco industry from producing a new generation of nicotine dependent users. If successful, Florida would become the 28th state to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.