LITTLE ROCK — State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wants the federal government to follow Arkansas’ lead in regulating electronic cigarettes.
McDaniel on Tuesday joined attorneys general from 39 other states in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implement restrictions on the advertising of e-cigarettes and to prohibit the sale of the products to minors.
In a letter to the FDA, the officials asked the regulatory agency to immediately take all available measures to regulate e-cigarettes as "tobacco products" under the Federal Tobacco Control Act.
E-cigarettes are increasing in popularity among both adults and youth, with sales doubling every year since 2008. The battery-operated products heat liquid nicotine derived from tobacco plants into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.
Earlier this year, the Arkansas Legislature enacted legislation that became Act 1451, which prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in the state. There is no such federal prohibition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1.8 million middle school and high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012. The U.S. Surgeon General has stated that nicotine is highly addictive, has immediate biochemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage, and is toxic in high doses.
McDaniel and other attorneys general said the lack of federal regulation of e-cigarettes places youth at a greater risk of developing a lifelong addiction to a potentially dangerous product, and that e-cigarette use could lead to use of other tobacco products.
Celebrity endorsements, cartoon characters, attractive packaging, fruit flavoring and cheap prices all serve to encourage youth consumption of the products, the officials said.
Also, they said manufacturers’ claims that e-cigarettes do not contain the same level of toxins and carcinogens found in traditional cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products imply e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking, even though the health effects have not been fully studied.
E-cigarette retailers in Central and Northwest Arkansas said Tuesday that they and most of their colleagues carded customers to prevent sales to minors even before Arkansas’ official ban went into effect.
"We actually never sold to minors," said Tubbs Carter, co-owner of Via Vapors Electric Emporium in Bentonville.