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Letter: Approach new nicotine products with caution

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Stephanie Womack


In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the Food and Drug Administration immediate regulatory authority over cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. The agency is also authorized to extend its jurisdiction to all other tobacco products.


Nearly three years after the FDA announced plans to do so, the agency has finally issued a proposed rule to start regulating alternative tobacco products, namely the electronic cigarette and cigars.

These provisions include prohibiting sales to children under 18, restricting vending machines to adult-only facilities, prohibiting free samples, requiring addiction warnings, requiring disclosure of ingredients, prohibiting the introduction of new or changed products without prior FDA review, and prohibiting manufacturers from claiming a tobacco product is less harmful or will expose a consumer to fewer harmful substances without first providing the FDA with scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, the proposal does not include provisions for flavorings or marketing, which has long been banned with the traditional cigarette.

Recognizing the many unknowns surrounding alternative tobacco products has prompted many to include e-cigarettes in their smoke-free air policies. Adding e-cigarettes furthers the fundamental purpose of these laws: to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air in workplaces and public places. Including e-cigarettes protects non-users from any possible harm caused by e-cigarette emissions, simplifies enforcement of the laws and helps ensure an environment that encourages smokers to quit and discourages kids from smoking.

Even if there is not enough research to determine the harms to the user and non-users of these products, there are some dangers that are known to be true. In the last year the number of kids who have tried e-cigarettes has nearly doubled. There have been incidents of the electronic devices exploding locally and nationwide, and calls to poison lines related to e-liquids continue to rise.

Schools have already taken the lead to include e-cigarettes in their tobacco-free policies. Until alternative products are proven to be safe, it would serve the Columbus community well to consider adding this provision to its smoke-free air law as well.

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