State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler sent letters Monday to 10 companies that manufacture electronic smoking devices to air his concerns about the products’ potential health risks, particularly to children.
Gansler’s office is “seeking action and answers to disturbing trends” associated with the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes and similar products, which heat nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor that users inhale. The liquids, or “e-juices,” are usually flavored and are also available without nicotine.
Gansler cited a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reported a spike in the number of phone calls made to poison control centers regarding exposure to liquid nicotine, which can be highly toxic.
In September 2010, poison centers received an average of one call per month related to e-cigarette liquids; the tally jumped to 215 calls per month in February 2014, the CDC study found. Slightly more than half of those calls involved children younger than 5.
Poisoning from liquid nicotine can occur by ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes, according to the CDC. Reported health effects included vomiting and eye irritation.
“Use of these products is skyrocketing, and these poisonings will continue,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement.
Gansler asked what the companies are doing to prevent children from inadvertently ingesting the e-liquid refills.
“Children under the age of 5 are the most vulnerable to nicotine poisoning, yet the cartridges of concentrated, liquid nicotine used to fill or refill e-cigarettes are not required to be childproof,” Gansler wrote in the letter.
The attorney general also urged the manufacturers to take several specific actions, including placing clear warnings on products about the potential dangers of liquid nicotine and refraining from marketing that appeals to children. Gansler took particular issue with flavors he said target children, such as bubble gum and cotton candy.
Some states, including Maryland, already forbid the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently proposed regulating the ingredients and implementing that age restriction nationwide. It’s unclear whether those rules will move forward.
The FDA proposal does not include a prohibition on using flavored liquids in the devices — which disappointed public health advocates who say the flavors target children — nor does it limit advertising tactics.
Additionally, the Baltimore City Council will soon weigh whether to treat “vaping” the same as smoking tobacco, meaning all the regulations that apply to tobacco products would apply to e-cigarettes, as well.
MANUFACTURERS WHO RECEIVED LETTER
Lorrilard Tobacco Co., Greensboro, N.C.
Altria Group Inc., Richmond, Va.
NJOY Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.
Eonsmoke LLC, Clifton, N.J.
Logic Technology Development LLC, Pompano Beach, Fla.
VMR Products LLC, Miami, Fla.
Green Smoke Inc., Richmond, Va.
Lead By Sales LLC, Tarpon Springs, Fla.
CB Distributors Inc., Beloit, Wis.
Nicotek LLC, Wheat Ridge, Colo.