FDA regulation on e-cigarettes might not affect Columbia shops

Monday, April 28, 2014 | 10:49 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Just a week after Missouri lawmakers passed bills in the House and Senate that would place more restrictions on electronic cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration proposed new regulations on e-cigarettes that include a ban on purchases by teens under 18.

The FDA's proposal states that "e-cigarettes and certain cigars are being marketed with characterizing flavors, and that these flavors can be especially attractive to youth."

Pending e-cigarette legislation

Two Missouri bills are currently working their way toward law. Both bills propose regulation of e-cigarettes with slight variations.

Senate Bill 841

Sponsor: Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa

Prohibits use of tobacco products, alternative nicotine products or vapor products in any indoor area of a public elementary or secondary school building or educational facility. Bans the selling of such products to people under 18.

House Bill 1690

Sponsor: Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia

Prohibits the smoking or use of alternative nicotine or vapor products in specified areas or the possession of such objects in any public elementary or secondary school building, prohibits the sale of alternative nicotine or vapor products to any person under 18 years old, adds alternative nicotine and vapor products to the provisions regarding tobacco merchandising.

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Under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the FDA currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco. The new proposal would extend FDA regulations for new categories of tobacco products including e-cigarettes, and would require health warnings on tobacco product packaging and in advertising.

Although e-cigarettes don't contain tobacco, they contain different levels of liquidized nicotine to create the feeling of smoking tobacco.

And that's the problem, said Jeff McCully, manager of Bocomo Bay, a Columbia "vapor shop." The store, which has been open for more than two years, requires identification from customers before they buy an e-cigarette or other tobacco products. All vapor shops in Columbia contacted for this story that sell e-cigarettes say they do the same.

"Nicotine's a very harmful drug," McCully said, "I think it should be (only sold) to 18-year-olds and older."

Vapeology, a store in Jefferson City that opened two months ago, bans sales to people under 18, said owner Ryan Jimenez.

"That's just not smart (to sell to minors); that's just not good business ethics," said Jimenez ."Especially in a community where you're supposed to look out for minors."

Last year, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster was one of 41 state attorneys general who signed a letter to the FDA asking for regulations on e-cigarettes.

The attorneys general said the candy-like flavors of e-cigarettes, including cherry, gummy bear and bubble gum, appealed too much to youth.

The letter dated Sept. 24, asked the FDA to propose regulations by Oct. 31, for fear of the growing sales of e-cigarettes and the harm they could do to consumers.

"The cost of e-cigarettes has fallen dramatically," the letter states, "making them more affordable, and thus more attractive to young people."

According to the letter, e-cigarette sales doubled every year from 2008 to 2012, and projected sales were estimated to reach $1.7 billion in 2013. The 2013 statistics have not yet been completed.

"The nicotine found in e-cigarettes is highly addictive, has immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses," the letter states.

Jimenez said e-cigarettes should be used to help people wean themselves off  carcinogenic cigarettes. E-cigarettes replace the nicotine inhaled from cigarettes with liquidized nicotine and allow smokers to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine inhaled.

"Our goal is not to get new customers," Jimenez said. "It's to get people to quit. I don't want new customers that pick this up because they think it's something cool."

Jimenez said the majority of the people who buy the device from him are trying to stop smoking and minors should not be allowed to use them.

"It's the way we've always run our store here, and it's the way every store in the country should run," McCully said.

The FDA can regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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