Committee on Public Health Moves Favorably on Sánchez Legislation Regulating E-Cigarettes

Committee on Public Health Moves Favorably on Sánchez Legislation Regulating E-Cigarettes

Joint Committee on Public Health reports Co-Chair Sánchez’ bill preventing the sale of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to minors, restricting use in public places favorably from Committee

BOSTON— The Joint Committee on Public Health voted its approval of legislation placing e-cigarettes under the state’s existing tobacco control law that prohibit the sale of tobacco products to minors, prohibit use of tobacco products on public school property and regulate use tobacco products in the workplace and certain public spaces. Authored by House Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Jamaica Plain) and supported by over 40 legislators and Attorney General Martha Coakley, the legislation advanced by the committee closes this major loophole in Massachusetts law by amending the statutory definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes and including these products under existing tobacco control regulations.

“These products currently exist outside of our state’s existing legal and regulatory scheme for tobacco products, giving tobacco companies free reign over this booming market,” said Sánchez. “Currently in Massachusetts, our youth can walk into a store and legally purchase e-cigarettes that come in flavors like chocolate chip cookie and cherry. I filed this legislation to prevent that, and hopefully prevent the creation of a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, issued the following statement on the committee’s vote: “We applaud Chairman Sanchez and members of the Joint Committee on Public Health for their leadership in approving this important legislation to regulate e-cigarettes under the state’s existing tobacco control laws, including the smoke-free workplace law. There has been dramatic growth in the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes, including marketing that makes these products appealing to kids and encourages their use where cigarette smoking isn’t allowed. Effective regulation of these products by the states, as well as by the FDA, is needed to prevent kids from using them and protect public health.”

“This bill is a sensible approach to protecting the health of youth from the dangers of another addictive tobacco product,” said Tami Gouveia, Executive Director of Tobacco Free Mass’, citing the organization’s support for the legislation. “We are grateful to the Committee for its vote and look forward to working with the legislature to ensure that the public health gains realized over the past 20 years from tobacco prevention and control are not undone by Big Tobacco.”

The American Heart Association applauds the work of Chairman Sanchez on his comprehensive approach to E-Cigarettes. Much more research is needed to determine the potential harms of e-cigarette use. Until that research is done it is important to include e-cigarettes in existing tobacco laws, such as the statewide smoke-free law,” said Dr. Elliott Antman, President-Elect of the American Heart Association. "Additionally, allowing e-cigarettes in indoor environments could create problems with enforcing the smoke-free law and send a message to kids that smoking is a social norm. Today’s Committee action moves Massachusetts one step closer to building healthier lives free from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.”

The American Lung Association of the Northeast applauds the Joint Committee on Public Health and Chairman Sanchez for standing up for the health all Massachusetts residents,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “The Lung Association urges Massachusetts to protect its children from e-cigarettes and the dangers of a lifelong nicotine addiction, and all of its citizens from secondhand e-cigarette emission, which initial studies show, contain deadly chemicals including formaldehyde."

“Once again, Massachusetts is at the forefront of efforts to take on Big Tobacco,” said Marc Hymovitz, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “I commend Chairman Sanchez and the members of the Joint Committee on Public Health for taking this important step to prevent youth from accessing these addictive products and maintain the strong health protections in our workplaces since passage of the Commonwealths’ smoke-free workplace law nearly 10 years ago.”

"The Massachusetts Association of Health Boards commends Chairman Sanchez and the members of the committee for this action,” stated Cheryl Sbarra, Senior Staff Attorney with the Association. “Local boards of health are beginning to regulate this extremely troubling product locally and will continue to do so. However regulating electronic cigarettes on a statewide level will protect all youth in Massachusetts."

E-cigarettes were first introduced to the U.S. market in 2006. Now, the three major tobacco companies in the U.S. have embraced e-cigarettes and have either released or are soon to release their own versions of the battery-operated devices. E-cigarette manufacturers won a legal battle to have these products regulated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration as tobacco products rather than as tobacco cessation products that are required to undergo a more rigorous testing and approval process. The FDA did announce plans to release draft regulations on e-cigarettes as tobacco products earlier this fall, but the agency has yet to release any regulations addressing these products. In the absence of federal and state regulation, 44 Massachusetts cities and towns, including Boston, Haverhill, New Bedford, Pittsfield and Taunton have approved local ordinances prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and including the products under existing workplace and public space restrictions.

The legislation currently awaits referral for further action in the legislature.

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