Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tennessee House Agricultural Committee bans e-cigarette sales to minors

Yesterday, the Tennessee House Agricultural Committee passed a bill that bans the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, however the devices will remain legally available for sale to adult smokers in Tennessee.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), supports the sales ban to minors. CASAA, a non-profit organization that works to ensure the availability of reduced harm alternatives to cigarette smoking, became interested in the legislation when it was alerted that Section 18 of an earlier version of Tennessee House Bill 1729 would have made it a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by a $10,000 fine, to sell electronic cigarettes to any citizen, regardless of age.

In a letter sent to members of the Tennessee House Agriculture Committee, CASAA Legal Director Yolanda Villa and Medical Director Theresa Whitt urged the Committee to remove Section 18 before passing the bill.

"An exception is made for products approved by the FDA as drug devices; however, federal courts have ruled that the FDA cannot regulate the products as drug devices unless a therapeutic claim is made," the letter stated. "Consumers are not using e-cigarettes as treatment for a disease, but rather as a replacement for smoking. Banning all sales of e-cigarettes would force thousands of adult e-cigarette consumers in Tennessee to either switch back to smoking far more hazardous tobacco cigarettes or to buy e-cigarettes from a newly created black market. Numerous small businesses in the state will be forced to close as well."

Representative Joe Armstrong (D) assured the Committee at Wednesday's hearing that the bill had indeed been amended to remove Section 18.

 "This in no way will outlaw them or stop anybody from over 18 or above being able to get it. They won't need a prescription. They can just go right to any place that sells these, walk right up if they have a photo ID that says they're 18 or older, they can purchase it?" asked Representative Jeremy Faison (R).

"Absolutely," Armstrong replied.

"Some of the things used in that New York [e-cigarette] bill, when interpreted into our Tennessee code made it illegal for e-cigarettes," he said. "And so, we've taken that section, that was Section 18, we've taken that completely out."

The FDA announced this week its decision to forego petitioning for Supreme Court review of the legal victory won last December by a major electronic cigarette distributor and will regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

"We estimate that over a million smokers have switched to electronic cigarettes," stated Dr. Whitt, in a recent CASAA press release praising the FDA decision. "As a result of avoiding the toxins, carcinogens, and particulates in smoke they are reporting their health has improved. Regulating electronic cigarettes as medical devices would have resulted in these life-saving products being removed from the market, pending lengthy and expensive clinical trials."

CASAA has stated that it will continue to oppose legislation which negatively affects the availability, affordability and effectiveness of smoke-free alternatives for adult smokers.

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1 comment:

Kristin Noll-Marsh said...

Banning the sale to minors was never in question.

The point is that they originally were going to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to ADULTS, too and the news was that they removed that section and only banned the sale to minors - which is how it should have been in the first place.