The rapid rise of what has become a billion dollar industry — and one that some toxicologists say poses a significant risk to public health — has lawmakers at all levels of government scrambling to add accountability to the unregulated sale of liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes.
A report published Sunday by The New York Times offers insight into liquid nicotine's far-reaching impacts in the U.S. And it has prompted renewed calls for regulation, including from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
“Exploding use — misuse and abuse — of liquid nicotine make federal regulation even more vital to stop poisoning and other public health hazards," Blumenthal said. "E-liquids are the new snake oil of cigarette marketing – with purity and potency varying widely, and no safeguards. The FDA must act immediately to forestall imminent public health threats from e-cigarettes and toxic nicotine e-liquids.”
The Times article referenced statistics that showed the number of cases of children being poisoned by liquid nicotine is on the rise. The rate at which youngsters are trying e-cigarettes is also climbing.
"A study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics reported that 3.3 percent of 6th to 12th graders said they’d tried e-cigarettes in 2011. In 2012 the number more than doubled, to 6.8 percent," according to a report published by Business Week.
The Business Week article highlighted a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Protecting Children From Electronic Cigarette Advertising Act of 2014.
Meanwhile, many states have already started to take action. More than two dozen have enacted legislation that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and other related devices to minors.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants his state to become the next.
Malloy has proposed Senate Bill No. 24, An Act Concerning the Governor’s Recommendations Regarding Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Youth Smoking Prevention, which would, among other things, ban the sale of e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems, and other vapor products to minors under the age of 18.
The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle earlier this month when the General Assembly’s Committee on Children unanimously approved it. The bill has since been referred to the Office of Legislative Research and the Office of Fiscal Analysis. Read the full text of the proposed law.
According to the website VaporSearchUSA.com, there are 17 stores that sell e-cigarettes in Connecticut. All of them list "e-liquid" nicotine as a product they carry. The website also maintains a database of vendors for all 50 states.
“It is sold all over the place. It is ubiquitous in society,” Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System and a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Times.
At least one liquid nicotine distributor told The Times they welcome some regulation.