CUMBERLAND — While there seems to be no state or county laws to regulate electronic cigarettes on the horizon, 40 state attorney generals Tuesday asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to meet its own deadline and regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler was among the signatories to the letter. The FDA regulations were to be offered by the end of the year.
There are no regulations in Maryland at this time on smoking electronic cigarettes indoors, said Brian Dicken, director of environmental health services at the Allegany County Health Department. There are regulations dealing with sales to minors on the books.
E-cigarettes are a common sight outdoors in downtown Cumberland and Frostburg and more obviously in restaurants and bars.
J.P. Geatz, owner of Geatz’s Restaurant in Cumberland, said a growing number of his customers use e-cigarettes. “It’s an economic factor, too, with e-cigarettes getting cheaper than tobacco,” Geatz said.
One big advantage is that customers using the e-cigarettes don’t need to go outside to smoke during bad weather.
One local convert is certain of her decision.
“I switched to e-cigarettes and will never go back,” said Diane Errico Robertson of Cumberland.
Electronic cigarettes are metal or plastic battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Users get nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes, according to The Associated Press. Some of the solutions are nicotine-free.
The attorney generals said that e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through cartoon-like advertising characters and by offering fruit and candy flavors, much like cigarettes were once marketed to hook new smokers. The health effects of e-cigarettes have not been adequately studied and the ingredients are not regulated, the letter said.
At the same time, e-cigarettes are becoming more affordable and more widely available as the use of regular cigarettes decline and become more expensive and less socially acceptable.
Tom Kiklas, co-founder and chief financial officer of the industry group the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, agrees that e-cigarettes should be regulated as tobacco products. The group represents dozens of companies involved in the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes.
“We’re in agreement with responsible restrictions on the marketing and sales of these products,” including a ban on marketing aimed at children, he said. “What I cringe at is when e-cigarettes get demonized.”
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