The federal government’s proposed regulation today banning the sale of electronic-cigarettes to minors and requiring the listing of product ingredients is a start, but much more needs to be done according to one health professional working with people fighting nicotine dependence.
“The proposal is minimalistic at best,” said Daniel Jacobsen, a nurse practitioner with North Shore-LIJ’s Center for Tobacco Control. “What the proposal doesn’t do is to regulate the sales, the flavoring and the marketing. And, that’s what we’re worried about because the marketing right now is specifically, in my opinion, targeting children. These products are coming out in flavors that are for kids. “
Jacobsen points to flavorings such as gummy bear, cotton-candy, popcorn, and chocolate, to name a few. E-cigarettes heat up a flavored, nicotine-laced liquid and turn it into a vapor that a user inhales.
Under the proposal, new e-cigarette products would also need approval by the Food and Drug Administration, as well as carry health warning labels.
According to a report last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of high school student using e-cigarettes more than doubled between 2011 and 2012 jumping from 4.7 percent to 10 percent.
“We’re worried that this might be that starter drug that eventually gets them to cigarettes,” explained Jacobsen. “We know that almost all of them have nicotine in them and that’s what makes them addictive and continues the addiction to nicotine.”
Adding to that worry, he says, is the fact that the tobacco industry – with its long history of successful advertising and marketing campaigns – has entered the e-cigarette market.
“At one point, Joe Camel was more recognizable than Mickey Mouse to children,” said Jacobsen.