California Senate Approves Bill To Regulate E-Cigarettes Like Traditional Tobacco Products

ecigEight months after the California Department of Health declared that e-cigarettes were a threat to public health, the state’s lawmakers are taking steps to ensure the devices are regulated much like their traditional counterparts.

The California State Senate on Thursday passed several bills that would put more regulations on the use and sale of electronic cigarettes, similar to the way in which traditional tobacco products are regulated in the state, Reuters reports.

Among that measure’s provisions are bans on where the devices could be used – essentially prohibiting their use in any places that cigarettes are already banned – and stricter packaging requirements, specifically ensuring they are sold in child-resistant packages.

Additionally, the bill would require businesses to obtain a special license to sell the products, much like they must do with traditional tobacco items.

According to the Health Department’s report earlier this year, the number of stores peddling e-cigs quadrupled between 2011 and 2013 and now includes more than 7,000 retailers.

It also pointed to rising use among the younger generations, saying it could help to addict future generations to nicotine. Citing a state survey of 430,000 middle and high school students in 2013, it points out that 6.3% of seventh-graders, 12.4% of ninth-graders and 14.3% of 11th graders had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

The bill, which passed the Senate on a 25-12 vote, must still get approval from the State Assembly before it could become law. A similar measure previously passed the Senate but later died in an Assembly committee, Reuters reports.

Another measure approved by the Senate on Thursday would increase the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21 from 18. That bill was also re-introduced recently after failing earlier this year.

The flurry of bills regulating e-cigarettes could be a direct response to the Health Department’s report meant to urge lawmakers to regulate the devices and make residents aware of the health risk associated with vaping.

The report found that e-cigarettes generally contain nicotine, drawn into the lungs after it is heated in a flavored liquid – sometimes in flavors like cotton candy and an assortment of fruits that might be appealing to younger consumers. The vapor used in the devices has also been found to contain some formaldehyde and other chemicals, such as benzene and acetaldehyde.

Thus far, California is the biggest state to take such a stance against e-cigarettes, with Alaska as the only other state with a public-education campaign warning about their dangers.

Advocates of the e-cigarette industry have, of course, opposed the California bills and health reports.

Reuters reports that many makers and distributors of the products continue to opine that the devices are a safer alternative to smoking.

Bill to regulate e-cigarettes clears California legislative hurdle [Reuters]

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