Montgomery County could target e-cigarettes

Bethesda Vapor Company coming to Woodmont TriangleMontgomery County officials are considering targeting the use of tobacco-less “e-cigarettes” by teens.

The County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee on Monday heard from a group of health experts in a session dedicated to learning about the battery-operated products increasing in popularity. E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine, along with flavors and other chemicals, into a vapor that the user inhales.

But health officials say the nicotine found in the products is highly addictive, has “immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage” and can be toxic.

The Food and Drug Administration has banned fruit and candy flavors from traditional cigarettes and many — including the National Association of Attorneys General — have urged the FDA to do the same when it comes to e- cigarettes.

A briefing from the University of Maryland School of Law provided to members of Council on Monday recommends licensing electronic smoking device retailers, prohibiting the use of the products on school property, prohibiting flavored electronic cigarette nicotine, “limiting the placement of sale to areas inaccessible to the consumer” and restricting the sale of the products to places where only adults can enter.

At his weekly press conference, Council President Craig Rice told reporters he doesn’t think it will be long before the County Council acts in an effort to keep kids away from the product.

Still, that same briefing from the University of Maryland School of Law says there isn’t yet consensus on the health risk of e-cigarettes:

While ESDs continue to gain popularity, not enough is currently known about their short-term and long-term health risks, their effectiveness as smoking cessation tools, or even their contents. However, the scant information that is available suggests the need for comprehensive regulation. In the absence of federal regulations, states and local authorities can continue to take the lead in restricting the availability and appeal of ESDs to minors. Property owners can also restrict the use of ESDs on their premises. Such regulations can help protect the public from the unknown, potentially harmful effects of these new devices.

There is no current federal law for regulation of e-cigarettes, though the FDA has proposed a regulation that would create a minimum age of purchase and ban the sale of the devices in vending machines, among other strategies.

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