The tobacco industry, in an effort to replace the 480,000 customers it loses each year to smoking-related deaths, has turned to electronic cigarettes, a new nicotine product that it hopes to make appealing to young people. These so-called e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that simulate traditional tobacco products and contain cartridges filled with highly-toxic liquid nicotine, which is then vaporized and inhaled.
These companies try to draw children and young people to e-cigarettes with brightly colored packaging and flavorings, like Gummy Bears and Tutti Frutti. So far, it’s working. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette use has doubled among middle and high school students since 2012. Not only are these products addicting, but just a teaspoon of liquid nicotine – either ingested or absorbed through the skin – could kill a small child.
Since 2012, the number of accidental poisonings linked to these e-liquids has increased 300 percent. And yet, liquid nicotine containers aren’t required to have childproof packaging.
If we childproof bleach, mouthwash, and aspirin, we should childproof toxic liquid nicotine.
That’s why I’m cosponsoring the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2014. The bill would direct the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue rules requiring safer, child-resistant packaging for any liquid nicotine sold to consumers, to protect children from accidental poisoning.
Very young children aren’t the only ones at risk. E-cigarette companies are using the same tactics to target young people that have already been banned for traditional tobacco companies. According to research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 2011 and 2013, the number of teenagers exposed to e-cigarette marketing increased by 256 percent.
In a letter to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), I joined with 12 other members of Congress in urging the agency to take immediate action against e-cigarette companies’ predatory efforts to market their products to young people. We asked the FDA to ban e-cigarette companies from marketing to children, prohibit the use of liquid nicotine flavorings, and end online sales which allow minors to purchase e-cigarette products without undergoing reliable age verification.
The Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act and new regulations by the FDA are an important step in the fighting the harmful effects of e-cigarettes. Our children deserve protection from dangerous products like liquid nicotine.
Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and writes guest columns.