Marion County Commissioner advocates banning sales of e-cigs to minors
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 5:47 p.m.
OCALA - Seeking to fill an alleged regulatory void, County Commissioner David Moore is advocating a ban on sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and seeks to outlaw the use of e-cigarettes in public places where traditional smoking is already disallowed.
“Nobody in Tallahassee will close the loophole throughout the state, so until Tallahassee gets to it, we'll try to close the loophole here,” said Moore, who is expected to request a public hearing on a proposed ban at the commission's regular meeting Tuesday.
Moore said he borrowed the idea from Clay County, which banned e-cigarette sales to minors in May.
The proposed ordinance Moore is offering would also prohibit the sale of liquid nicotine to people under age 18. E-cigarettes burn liquid nicotine, which is usually sweetly flavored, to simulate the effects of tobacco smoking.
Thus, “vaping,” as it's known, delivers the nicotine without the additives found in tobacco cigarettes.
Moore's measure would forbid retailers from offering either e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine in self-service cases. Those products would only be displayed in areas inaccessible to the public.
Finally, the proposed ban would forbid e-cigarettes in the workplace, mirroring current state law for tobacco smokers.
“That's not something you want to expose your family to,” Moore said of why that provision was included.
An organization representing e-cigarette manufacturers, the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, or SAFTA, said age restrictions are appropriate.
“SFATA believes that vaporizing devices, like electronic cigarettes, should be available to those of legal age who are looking for a combustion-free alternative to tobacco cigarettes. We fully support age restrictions on the sale of these products to minors and we urge states to pass regulation to ensure just that,” Cynthia Cabrera, the group's executive director, said in a statement to the Star-Banner.
Others in the industry maintain that existing regulations are sufficient.
For example, one manufacturer, EverSmoke, notes on its website that it's “kind of funny” for critics to maintain that minors can buy e-cigarettes.
“Kids and teenagers will have the same problems purchasing electronic cigarettes as they would purchasing tobacco cigarettes,” the company says.
Marion's ordinance, if adopted, would apply only in unincorporated parts of the county.
Violators would face a maximum penalty of a $500 fine, up to 60 days in jail, or both.
Marion County is joining a growing chorus of communities that have banned, or are considering outlawing, e-cigarettes — although an exact number of local governments that have done so is unknown.
According to the anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 23 states already prohibit sales of e-cigarettes to minors.
Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the group, said while not being among them, Florida has been “terrific generally” in tobacco prevention programs targeting kids.
Some states also are calling for the federal Food and Drug Administration to take action against sales of the pseudo cigarettes. The Washington Post reported last week that attorneys general from almost 40 states wrote the FDA urging the agency to crack down on ads targeting young people.
The FDA in 2010 had outlawed importation of e-cigarettes as a “drug delivery device,” pending further review of their safety. A federal judge struck down the regulation, however, declaring the devices were tobacco products and not pharmaceuticals.
In 2011, the FDA claimed that authority over e-cigarettes but, according to proponents of stricter regulation, the agency has not followed up, leaving them still largely unregulated at the national level.
Despite efforts to control them, the devices are more popular than ever.
In August, Miami-based V2 Cigs, which says it is the nation's largest online seller of e-cigarettes, announced that in 2013 total sales of the devices would top $1 billion for the first time. The company further noted that analysts at Wells Fargo had projected overall retail sales to reach $1.7 billion by the end of the year — a spike of 240 percent over an estimated $500 million recorded in 2012.
That growth rate was reflected in two separate reports released this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate why e-cigarette opponents are alarmed.
In February, the CDC publicized a study that found e-cigarette usage by adults in the U.S. had roughly doubled between 2010 and 2012, to about 6 percent of the adult population.
Last month a second CDC report indicated that the number of high school students who had tried e-cigarettes had doubled from 2011 to 2012, rising from 4.7 percent to 10 percent.
The number of students who had admitted to researchers that they had used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days jumped as well, from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent, according to the CDC.
In its litany of reasons for regulating sales of the devices, the county's ordinance notes that manufacturers flavor the nicotine — with cherry, chocolate and vanilla, for instance — so that they become “training wheels for traditional cigarettes.”
The proposed ordinance also argues that the use of an e-cigarette in public places where smoking is already banned by state law, such as restaurants and workplaces, sows “fear, stress and confusion among patrons and workers alike” and “seriously compromise(s)” Florida's prohibition of indoor smoking.
Noting that traditional smoking costs the nation up to $268 billion a year in healthcare coverage and lost economic productivity, the ordinance concludes, “Protecting Marion County residents against an untested nicotine product like electronic smoking devices represents sound public health and fiscal policy.”
Contact Bill Thompson at 352-867-4117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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