YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – With accidental nicotine poisonings on the rise, at least one Ohio lawmaker is calling for increased regulation of electronic cigarettes.
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said some e-cigarette products, including the liquid nicotine used to refuel them, are being marketed in a way that appeals to children and wants greater regulation of the industry. Locally, flavors available for sale include blueberry muffin and white grape.
“The tobacco companies are at it again. They continue to target children. Whether it is stick tobacco, whether it is e-cigarettes, selling liquid nicotine and flavoring it and putting it in pretty little bottles that young children or teens might like,” Brown said.
Locally, retailers welcome the call for more regulation.
“We are definitely in favor of age restrictions on this product. In our Smoker Friendly locations, we do not sell to minors, nor do we let them in our stores,” company spokeswoman Renee Silverman said.
While they are in favor of age restrictions, Silverman said the products don’t particularly appeal to young people.
“It is basically people who want to cut back on their own smoking for health reasons or are looking for an alternative. We are not seeing people coming in who have never smoked who want to try this product,” Silverman said.
Brown said he wants liquid nicotine to have childproof packaging, which would prevent accidental overdose by children drawn to brightly colored packaging and appealing flavors. The senator said there is enough nicotine in each container to deliver a fatal dose to a child.
“Any marketing to children of any toxic substance like nicotine, any marketing to children of regular stick cigarettes, of e-cigarettes, should be prohibited,” Brown said. “Every year, 400,000 Americans die of smoking-related illnesses. That is more than 1,000 people a day. Tobacco companies know they have to find 1,000 new customers every day. They don’t go to people my age to try and convince them to smoke. They go to 12-year-olds, and 14-year-olds, and 16-year-olds, and 18-year-olds.”
Under proposed FDA rules, e-cigarettes would fall under the same laws and age restrictions as smokeless tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. The federal government does not have national rules for e-cigarettes. Those regulations are left to the states.
Brown said the FDA must act on the e-cigarette issue soon.