For nicotine manufacturers, 2016 isn’t shaping up to be the best of years.
For those who don’t want young children addicted to nicotine, things are looking up.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided last week to put the regulation of e-cigarettes under its purview.
At the same time, California raised the minimum age to purchase products that contain nicotine to 21.
That means access to popular vaping devices will be increasingly limited.
Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, accounting for 480,000 per year. Yet use of other tobacco products — namely flavored cigars and e-cigarettes — continues to rise since being introduced to the U.S. market in 2007.
According to data from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette use among high school students saw a 900 percent increase from 2011 to 2015.
In 2015, 3 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users. High school boys were smoking cigars — flavored ones being preferred — at the same rate as cigarettes.
But for younger children, particularly those under the age of 2 who are unaware of what they’re ingesting, e-cigarettes, traditional cigarettes, and other forms of tobacco are common causes of poisonings in the home.
E-Cig Poisonings Rising
Cigarettes remain the most common way young children are poisoned with nicotine, but the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes is bringing new concerns, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study, released Monday, shows child poisonings from liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes increased 1,492 percent from 2012 to April 2015. Still, they only accounted for 14 percent of all nicotine exposures to children under the age of 6.
During that time, a total of 29,141 calls to the National Poison Data System were reported.
Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include abdominal cramps, agitation, breathing problems, confusion, convulsions, drooling, fainting, headache, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, and weakness. Hospitalization is often required, especially in young children.
Over the course of the study, traditional cigarettes accounted for more than 6o percent of these encounters, none of which were fatal. One child died as a result of exposure to liquid nicotine. In almost all cases, the tobacco or liquid nicotine was ingested.
Among all nicotine and tobacco products, the majority of poisonings happened at home to children under the age of 3 because the products were stored within the child’s sight, the report shows.
Possible solutions, the researchers noted, include public education, warning labels, appropriate product storage, and packaging that is less appealing to children.
One such measure, the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, will take effect this summer. It requires child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine containers.
FDA Regulations: What Do They Mean?
Meanwhile, the FDA announced last week that e-cigarettes would now be under its umbrella of oversight.
While states made their own laws, the new FDA enforcement prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs to anyone under the age of 18. It also requires a photo ID, forbids sales in vending machines in places where minors are allowed, and prohibits free samples.
Manufacturers, importers, and retailers of tobacco products are now required to register with the FDA, report the ingredients in their products, and place necessary warnings on packaging and advertisements. Tobacco products are also required to go through a premarket review and authorization process.
The enforcement also forbids selling modified risk tobacco products, such as “light” or “mild” products, unless authorized by the FDA.
“This final rule is a foundational step that enables the FDA to regulate products young people were using at alarming rates, like e-cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs tobacco, that had gone largely unregulated,” Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a press release.
While medical and health organizations laud the FDA for stepping up their regulatory actions, some say they are still behind on their game.
Dr. Benard P. Dreyer, F.A.A.P., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says more work is needed as e-cigarettes become more popular.
“FDA passed up critical opportunities in this rule by failing to prohibit the sale of tobacco products coming in flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear, and grape, or to prevent marketing tactics that target children,” he said in a statement.
Dr. Steven J. Stack, president of the American Medical Association, urged the FDA to further regulate marketing of these products and ban flavored e-cigarettes, which, he says, are particularly enticing to minors.
“Given what we know about the health effects of tobacco use and the powerful addictive properties of nicotine, today marks a critical step in our country’s efforts to protect the health of Americans and prevent another generation of smokers,” he said in a press release.