E-cigarettes have significantly increased in popularity in recent years, in part based on the premise that they are less harmful than tobacco products. On August 27, the California Senate passed a bill to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products; the measure has now been sent to the Assembly where a similar bill died earlier this year. Moreover, the bill was one of several anti-tobacco proposals that advanced in the Senate on that date, including one to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21 from 18.
The e-cigarette regulations were introduced by State Senator Mark Leno (Democrat, San Francisco); they would ban use of the devices, also known as vapor cigarettes or vapes, in the workplace, at schools, and other places where cigarettes already are not allowed, and would require that they be sold in child-resistant packaging. Leno’s bill is supported by the American Cancer Society and a number of other public health organizations,
At present, the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is banned; however, the bill would require businesses wishing to sell them to obtain a license. Electronic cigarette makers and distributors have said the devices are a safer alternative to smoking. But Leno claimed that they are highly addictive and can serve as a gateway to tobacco dependence and regular smoking.
According to a report by Dr. Ron Chapman, the former director of the California Department of Public Health, 7.6% of California’s young adults aged 18-29 used electronic cigarettes in 2013, marking an increase from 2.3% in 2012. The report also noted that, among children under the age of five, incidents of nicotine poisoning rose from seven in 2012 to 154 in 2014. The nicotine poisonings occurred when young children gained possession of, and swallowed, the vaping liquid.
The bill passed 25-12 in the Senate on August 27; it must still garner approval by the assembly. Leno noted that, compared to the committee that did not approve the measure earlier this year, the committee membership is different for the special session. He is hopeful that the bill will have a better chance of Assembly approval this time. The bill raising the age for buying cigarettes also died in the Assembly last month and was re-introduced during the special session.
E-cigarettes generally contain nicotine, drawn into the lungs after it is heated in a flavored liquid. Nicotine is highly addictive; it increases blood pressure, and causes constrictions of blood vessels. The vapor also contains some formaldehyde and other chemicals. Some e-cigarette research has focused on lung damage, focused primarily on the vaporized nicotine-containing solution (e-liquid); in most products, it contains some combination of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings. Recent research has found that the cytotoxic (cell damaging) effects of e-liquids were primarily limited to flavoring ingredients. Propylene glycol has been evaluated for ingestion, not inhaling. The variety flavoring substances in e-cigarettes is increasing at a rapid rate. As of January 2014, 466 distinct brands of electronic nicotine products and at least 7764 unique flavors were present on the marketplace: an increase of approximately 10.5 brands and 242 new flavor products per month from August 2013 to January 2014.1 Furthermore, many users may produce their own mixtures of flavorings by combining different flavors or by using flavoring available from food flavoring manufacturers to create unique flavors. Other studies have focused on metallic nanoparticles from the heating element. These microscopic particles are released in the vapor and can lodge deep in the lung