FDA action on e-cigarettes could help curb problems in Utah

Published: Thursday, April 24 2014 8:45 p.m. MDT

"That process is notoriously very expensive. We’re talking tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Aaron Frazier, director of Utah Vapers, an electronic cigarette trade organization.

Frazier said costs could be through the roof if each flavor, nicotine strength and size requires a separate application to the FDA.

"We're absolutely happy that there are regulations," he said. "As far as the regulations themselves, there's some good and there's some bad and there's some ugly. … Hopefully, we as an industry can work with the FDA."

The Weber-Morgan Health Department wants authority to perform compliance checks for selling to minors. Bennion said compliance checks for conventional cigarettes contributed to the decrease in stores selling to minors, from about 30 percent to 10 percent.

Bennion said he'd also like to see bans or restrictions on online sales, television advertising and flavors.

Anna Guymon of the Weber-Morgan Health Department noted that Weber County has the highest rate of youth use in the state, with almost 1 in 5 youths regularly using an e-cigarette in 2013 — compared to 13.6 percent of adults in the same area.

The national rate for high school use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rose from 4.7 percent to 10 percent from 2011 to 2012. For middle schoolers, the rate went from 1.4 percent to 2.7 percent.

Nationally, the number of calls to poison centers involving nicotine liquids for e-cigarettes shot up from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to a CDC study published earlier this month. Just over half of the calls involved children under 5. The study noted e-cigarettes aren't required to be childproof, and their candy flavors are attractive to children.

Utah's effort

One Utah legislator was tired of the waiting on the FDA and proposed legislation earlier this year that would create production oversight and restrict youth access. HB112 ultimately didn't make it through the process before time expired on the last day of the session.

"What I hope they do, what they need to do, is just treat it the same as you would a tobacco product because that’s what it is. Nicotine is a tobacco derivative," said HB112 sponsor Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who said he had the FDA proposal on his desk.

His plan now is to study up on the regulations and fill in any gaps he finds with legislation next session.

Ray said the FDA's proposal is a result of a directive from Congress, which is "fed up" with the problem of nicotine poisoning. He said it looks like the FDA will require labeling and child-proof caps.

"We’ve done a fantastic job in this state of decreasing youth smoking, and then these came a long and just blew that out of the water," Ray said. "In Weber County, you have more youth using e-cigarettes than you do adults, so that tells you there’s a huge problem."

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: Madeleine6

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