Adams Board Of Health Eye E-Cigarette BanBy Andy McKeever
09:43AM / Thursday, May 05, 2011
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health is looking at bumping up the town tobacco policy to restrict electronic cigarettes.
According to Northern Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership Project Coordinator Joan Rubel, the products have just recently been introduced to the county and do not fit tobacco regulations — including being exempt from tobacco taxes, which make the devices more affordable.
"They haven't been approved for use by our public health community," Rubel said Wednesday. "Right now, the way most tobacco regulations are written, they are not covered unless a town or a city has taken action to cover them. Down the road all of this may be fixed but meanwhile, how many people will become addicted to nicotine through this device? How many kids go back to thinking it's glamorous to see this behavior?"
The device vaporizes a nicotine solution that the user inhale. The Food and Drug Administration is not currently regulating its sale or usage. Rubel said the solutions come in various flavors, can be used inside public buildings and are not age-restricted.
The device is being marketed in different ways, Rubel said. Many companies view it as a safer way to smoke; some see it as a tool to quit smoking; while some companies market it as a way to smoke in smoke-free areas. Companies sell the solution in flavors and with different levels of nicotine.
"I'm an ex-smoker and I know you start out light and then want more and more and more," Board of Health member Roy Thompson said. "I see it as a starter kit."
Thompson argued that it is not intended to help smokers quit but instead "corporate America" is using the loopholes to grow a sales base.
Rubel agreed that it could be used as a tool to quit smoking but added there is currently not enough evidence to support that claim. Too little is known about the amounts of nicotine in the solution or what other chemicals are there, she said.
"They're out on the market without a lot of science," Rubel said.
There has been an array of nicotine products hitting the market in response to a growing smoke-free culture, she said. The device has entered the county only recently with booths selling them at the Berkshire Mall.
Rubel gave the board a model tobacco regulation it could adopt that would restrict the sale and usage of electronic cigarettes. The template was given to Rubel by D.J. Wilson, tobacco control director for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and can be tweaked to fit the town's wants. It is not easy to just add the electronic cigarettes into the current policy, Rubel said.
For most of the board, Wednesday was the first time they had heard of the product. Members said they will do more research into the product before taking any action.