In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of an alarming survey involving middle and high school students. In just one year, use of nicotine vaporizers, or electronic cigarettes, had doubled. Nicotine vaporizers deliver liquid nicotine to the user (reportedly along with other chemicals). Surprisingly, these devices are completely unregulated, leaving the consumer unprotected from adulterants, manufacturing irregularities or inconsistent performance.
Of even more concern is that sales to children are not prohibited under the law.
Claims that these are effective devices for long-term cessation from cigarettes have been the subject of debate and criticized by FDA and others. However, whatever the merits of how and why an adult might use such devices, this should not be a place where children begin using nicotine products.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances available for public consumption. Introducing flavored versions of the liquid nicotine harkens back to the playbook of Big Tobacco, a repugnant strategy intended to boost sales long term through addiction. Minors’ use of these devices has been characterized as “nicotine addiction on training wheels.”
Legislative help might be coming. Florida Senate Bill 224, which would prohibit sales to minors, was introduced recently and is progressing through the Senate. In the meantime, the city of Sunrise passed an ordinance prohibiting businesses from selling such devices and liquid nicotine to minors. There are stiff financial penalties for violations. Other municipalities may follow.
We cannot tackle this public health crisis one city at a time. We need a comprehensive strategy to protect children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and irresponsible marketing strategies intended to hook them.
Mike Ryan, mayor, Sunrise