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E-cigarettes should be treated like cigarettes

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 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration won the power to regulate smoking-related products in 2009. It has announced it will regulate e-cigarettes. So why is it dragging its feet?

At the very least, while the agency studies the products, it should hold electronic vapor inhalers to the same federal regulations in place for tobacco products — including outlawing their sale to minors, who apparently are a prime target market.

Instead, state legislatures, city councils and county governments across the nation are scrambling to write their own legislation while waiting for the FDA to do its job.

The New York Times on Sunday published an in-depth report on the dangers of the liquid form of nicotine, known as e-liquids, which are mixed with flavourings, colourings and other chemicals to create e-cigarettes. The products come in flavours such as chocolate, bubble gum, cheesecake and cotton candy to appeal to kids, and they are frighteningly dangerous.

The Times reported that tiny amounts of the liquid nicotine, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can be lethal. The National Poison Data System reporting a 300 per cent increase in poisonings from the substance just since 2012.

Defenders of e-cigarettes say they’re less dangerous than cigarettes and help smokers quit their nicotine habit. The science is still unclear on that claim. Meanwhile, poisonous liquid nicotine is being sold on store shelves by the gallon. At best, the inhalers trade one dangerous nicotine product for another.

The FDA must protect Americans, particularly children, while it studies the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. Applying the same rules used for tobacco-based nicotine delivery systems is the obvious thing to do.

 

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