Since being introduced to the U.S. market in 2007, electronic smoking devices have gone from a possible solution for breaking tobacco addiction, to an increasingly dangerous public health challenge.
Cloudy regulations inhibit challenges to vaping industry
What started as relatively innocuous low-wattage cigarette look-alikes, these popular products have evolved into powerful electronic devices capable of generating clouds of vapor infused with substances that are potentially harmful to human health.
New vaping choices mean new potential hazards
Manufacturers of vaping products have experimented with devices that are attractive to new users and relatively easy to obtain. Once intended to be an alternative to the addictive nicotine of tobacco products, a number of these new products are designed to deliver aerosolized nicotine in even higher and potentially more dangerous amounts. For example, high-tech flash-drive-sized JUUL vaping devices, which are now among the most used devices among vapers, use nicotine salt pods that can deliver the equivalent amount of nicotine contained in an entire pack of cigarettes.
An ever-growing assortment of flavored liquids has also led to new generations becoming hooked on vaping—particularly teens and even preteens. Many of these liquids contain metals and other substances that can become toxic when superheated by vaping devices.
A disturbing new epidemic unfolds
Vaping use among young people has skyrocketed in recent years and is reaching epidemic levels. A study by Truth Initiative shows that one in five high school students used e-cigarettes in 2020, many of whom were not smokers in the first place. Even with this concerning data, regulating e-cigarette and vaping devices has been difficult. Vaping products occupy a gray area where it’s unclear if they are subject to the same rules and restrictions that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applies to traditional tobacco products. This has given many manufacturers new openings to sell their devices.
An attempt to reel in the vaping industry
In 2016, the FDA took action to control the vaping epidemic by imposing a new rule that gives the agency full control over tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The policy requires all companies with products introduced by February 15, 2007 or later—including e-cigarettes and vaping devices—to demonstrate that their products were “appropriate for the protection of public health” and would be safe for current smokers and unappealing for nonsmokers. E-cigarette producers were given a one-year grace period to continue to sell their products while their applications were reviewed. By the September 9, 2020, deadline to apply, the FDA received nearly 6.5 million applications from makers of e-cig and vaping products.
Amending the PACT Act
In 2020, Congress amended the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking or PACT Act, which was originally passed in 2009 to prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products directly to customers. The amendment modifies the original definition of “cigarette” to include electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) which essentially includes all vaping products.
State governments step up to the plate
As federal regulations on e-cig and vaping devices continue to evolve, a growing number of states are imposing their own restrictions. More than 29 states now mandate a packaging system for vaping and e-cig products to warn of the dangers of using them. Many have also made it more difficult for children to access them by raising the age to purchase vaping devices. Additionally, more than 21 states have imposed new taxes on e-cig and vaping as a percentage of the purchase price, a rate per milliliter of e-liquids, or a combination of both. Other states have imposed outright bans for using vaping or e-cig devices in areas where smoking tobacco products has already been banned, including restaurants and schools. On the local level, some municipalities are even writing their own legislation since they feel that state restrictions are too lax for their communities.
What’s your state’s stand on vaping?
Useful examples from the eCode360® Library
If your community is interested in legislating or updating existing ordinances regarding vaping, vape shops, and sales of vaping devices, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:
Updating your municipal code is vitally important
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