SACRAMENTO (BCN) — Electronic cigarettes have experienced a spike in popularity and a general lack of regulation despite studies linking them to serious health hazards and allegations of targeting teens and pre-teens.
A proposed California State Senate bill, known as SB 140, authored by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) calls for e-cigarettes to be defined as tobacco products and that they adhere to California’s existing smoke-free laws which prohibit smoking at workplaces, schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other public places to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke and discourage smoking in general.
The hearing for SB 140 is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, which will take place in Room 4202 of the State Capitol in Sacramento.
According to Sen. Leno, 180 cities and counties in California have already passed ordinances restricting e-cigarettes.
“These tobacco products are addicting a new generation of smokers to toxic nicotine, which we already know is highly addictive and contains harmful chemicals,” Sen. Leno said in a statement. “SB 140 puts common sense regulations into place statewide in order to protect young people, non-smokers, and smokers alike.”
The bill is co-sponsored by a coalition of national health organizations, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration discovered that e-cigarettes labeled as “nicotine-free” had traceable levels of nicotine. A 2015 study by the New England Journal Medicine found high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in e-cigarette emissions.
Another problematic issue that e-cigarettes face are their increasing popularity among middle and high school students, which tripled from 2013 to 2014 despite California’s ban on sales to minors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”With flavors like pineapple express and jolly rancher, we know that e-cigarette companies are clearly targeting youth,” American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network board member Lori Bremmer said in a
statement. “We don’t want our kids’ lungs being sacrificed because regulations haven’t yet caught up with this fast-growing and aggressive industry.”
According to the Office of Sen. Leno, eleven states across the country including Colorado, Minnesota, Utah and Wyoming, regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. In California, 178 local communities, including San Francisco, have responded to the risks e-cigarettes pose by limiting their use through local licenses or treating them as tobacco products.
However, according to San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, local laws are not enough.
“The e-cigarette industry is almost completely unregulated, and statewide laws are essential to providing uniform protections for the health and well-being of all California children and our communities,” Mar said in a statement.