The Massachusetts Attorney General is proposing to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. There is currently a void in Massachusetts regulations that has led to a patchwork of local restrictions on the sale and use of the new product.
Attorney General Maura Healey Tuesday proposed regulations that would treat e-cigarettes like tobacco products, including banning sales to people under 18 years old, prohibiting free give-a-ways or sampling, require the products be kept behind store counters, and banning vending machine sales except in adults-only establishments.
" E-cigarette us has surpassed traditional cigarette use by young people. That is the problem. That is why I am proposing these regulations," she said.
Massachusetts regulations are currently silent when it comes to e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid or gel to create a nicotine vapor that is inhaled. The proposed regulations would require the liquid or gel to come in child-resistant packaging.
42 states already ban e-cigarette sales to minors. More than 150 municipalities in Massachusetts have imposed age-based sales restrictions.
Jon Hurst, president of the Massachusetts Retailers Association, said Healey’s proposals are “common sense regulations.” He said store owners prefer statewide rules rather than the patchwork of local regulations that exist now.
Healey announced the regulations at a Statehouse press conference attended by anti-smoking activists.
Jennifer Borucki, a member of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives, was also at the news conference. She said her group supports the sales ban to minors, but opposes other restrictions that treat e-cigarettes the same as tobacco.
Healey’s proposed regulations were filed with the state secretary’s office Tuesday to open a public comment period that will continue until April 24th. A public hearing on the regulations will be held April 23.
The new regulations don’t require the approval of the Massachusetts legislature or the governor.
State Representative Jose Tosado of Springfield said the regulations proposed by the attorney general appear warranted because so little is known about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
" They are billed as a safe alternative to natural tobacco products, but we don't know. We don't know the long term affects," he said.
Bills have been filed in the legislature to extend the state’s workplace smoking ban and other current smoking prohibitions to e-cigarettes.
The Springfield Housing Authority recently banned e-cigarettes from all its properties. Housing authority executive director William Abrashkin said it is a logical extension to the smoking ban that was put in place in 2012.
" The impetus for the new policy on e-cigarettes was complaints from some employees about the disagreeable discharge of the vapors from people using those devices," he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on its website, says because e-cigarettes have not been fully studied any potential risks from the product when used as intended is unknown.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.