The California Department of Public Health said Wednesday (1/29/15) that laws aimed at protecting children and the public from traditional tobacco products should be expanded so that they include e-cigarettes, just one recommendation from a new report detailing the dangers and toxicity of so-called vaping devices.
The report warns that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is just as addictive as in traditional cigarettes, and that the secondhand vapor that comes from them includes at least 10 chemicals on California’s Prop. 65 list of substances known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
“Existing laws that currently protect minors and the general public from traditional tobacco products should be extended to cover e-cigarettes,” Chapman said in his introduction to the report. E-cigarettes currently fall outside those laws, meaning the industry is legally allowed to market the products in ways that are forbidden for traditional tobacco products — including to youth, the report said.
The liquids vaporized in e-cigarettes come in kid-friendly flavors such as bubble gum, chocolate and cherry, tempting children to taste them. In addition, the bottles don’t typically have child-resistant caps, which the report says has contributed to a significant rise to poison control centers calls for children and adults who ingested the liquids, according to the report.
Nationwide, the number of poison-control calls has increased from one a month in September 2010 to 215 a month in February 2014, the report said. Many of those calls were related to children under the age of five.
The department also reported that youth are experimenting with e-cigarettes at “an alarming rate.” Last year, a survey showed that use of “vaping” devices had surpassed minors’ use of tobacco cigarettes. Among 8th and 10th graders, more than twice as many reported using e-cigarettes as traditional cigarettes, and 17 percent of 12th graders reported using e-cigarettes, more than the 14 percent smoking tobacco cigarettes, according to the report.
E-cigarette companies advertise their products on a number of television networks, including MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and ABC Family. Those advertisements often market the devices’ nicotine liquid as “e-juice,” the report said.
“Promoting and labeling nicotine containing products as ‘juice’ may mislead consumers to believe that e‐liquid is safe to ingest and that e‐cigarettes pose no health risk,” it said. Some ads also use cartoon characters, while the vaping pens themselves sometimes feature popular characters like Hello Kitty, according to the report.
The report comes just days after California Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 140, a bill that would ban smoking e-cigarettes at workplaces, schools, restaurants and hospitals.
“No tobacco product should be exempt from California’s smoke-free laws simply because it’s sold in a modern or trendy disguise,” Leno said in a statement Monday. “Addiction is what’s really being sold. Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a cloud of other toxic chemicals, and their use should be restricted equally under state law in order to protect public health.”
Meanwhile, e-cigarette companies are already facing litigation, particularly over claims that their products are healthier than tobacco cigarettes. In September, a California smoker brought a proposed class action against Fumizer LLC over touts that its vaporizers could help users quit smoking or lead to “healthy smoking” despite its later denials and the existence of adverse medical studies. E-cigarette maker NJoy Inc. also faces a consolidated class action in California alleging it falsely advertises its products as healthier than traditional cigarettes.