Last session, the General Assembly passed two new laws dealing with electronic nicotine delivery systems, or “e-cigarettes.”
Senate Bill 530 clarified the definition of these vapor products and prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina, and House Bill 1050 included language that both taxed liquid nicotine at five cents per milliliter and prohibited the use of these devices in State correctional facilities.
Expanding further on these protections, last month the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 286 regulating containers of the liquid, which are sold separately and are used to refill the e-cigarette devices. Representative McGrady voted in support of the bipartisan legislation.
E-cigarettes (also known as vaporizers, or what the kids call “vapes”) do not produce smoke as do normal cigarettes; instead, a small battery converts this liquid into a water-based vapor. While they don’t contain the tar that a real cigarette does, e-cigarette liquids do contain nicotine, which can be addictive and has been shown to potentially affect the brain development of children. Although the levels of nicotine in individual liquids vary, they may go as high as 48 mg; a normal pack of cigarettes contains about 24 mg of nicotine.
This concentrated “e-liquid” (or “e-juice”) comes in small glass or plastic bottles, usually with just with a simple screw-top, and are sold over-the-counter at many retail shops. The colorful little bottles (which come in a variety of colors and flavors such as chocolate, strawberry and bubblegum) are not required to have any warning labels and can be enticing to a child and can be easily mistaken for other things by clueless adults.
This concentrated liquid nicotine, which varies greatly in purity and quality, contains various neurotoxins and can cause vomiting, seizures, and even death; a teaspoon of diluted e-liquid is enough to kill a pet or a small child. Toxic reactions can result if the liquid is consumed or even absorbed through the skin. A 2014 study in the Oxford Journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research claims that formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein have been found in e-cigarette vapor.
Reports of accidental poisonings — notably among children — are soaring. According to the National Poison Data System, the number of cases nationwide linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013 — a 300 percent increase from 2012 — and the number, tragically, is on pace to double in 2014.1 If you think a child has been exposed to e-liquid, call the Carolinas Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.
In response to these concerns, Senate Bill 286 requires (as of December 1) that refill containers of e-liquid must feature child-resistant packaging and, if they contain nicotine, state as much. Any violation of these two provisions constitutes a Class A1 misdemeanor. The legislation also makes any person, firm, or corporation liable for damages caused as a result of selling e-liquid containers without child-resistant packaging and the required labeling.
For more information on e-cigarettes, including scholarly research and public policy analysis, please see the following resources:
- E-Cigarettes: A Disruptive Technology That Revolutionizes Our Field?
by Karl Fagerstrom, Jean-Francois Etter and Jennifer B. Unger
- Nicotine Intake From Electronic Cigarettes on Initial Use and After 4 Weeks of Regular Use
by Peter Hajek, Maciej L. Goniewicz, Anna Phillips, et al.
- Intentions to Smoke Cigarettes Among Never-Smoking US Middle and High School Electronic Cigarette Users: National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011–2013
by Rebecca E. Bunnell, Israel T. Agaku, R, René A. Arrazola, et al.
- E-cigarette Use Among High School and Middle School Adolescents in Connecticut
by Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Meghan E. Morean, Deepa R. Camenga, et al.
- How U.S. Adults Find Out About Electronic Cigarettes: Implications for Public Health Messages
by Jessica K. Pepper, Sherry L. Emery, Kurt M. Ribisl, et al.
- Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes
by Jan Czogala, Maciej L. Goniewicz, Bartlomiej Fidelus, et al.
- Pilot Investigation of Changes in Readiness and Confidence to Quit Smoking After E-Cigarette Experimentation and 1 Week of Use
by Theodore L. Wagener, Ellen Meier, Jessica J. Hale, et al.
- E-Cigarettes: Prevalence and Attitudes in Great Britain
by Martin Dockrell, Rory Morrison, Linda Bauld, et al.
- Awareness and Ever-Use of Electronic Cigarettes Among U.S. Adults, 2010–2011
by Brian A. King, Suhana Alam, Gabbi Promoff, et al.
- Electronic Cigarettes: Effective Nicotine Delivery After Acute Administration
by Andrea Rae Vansickel and Thomas Eissenberg
- Nicotine Levels in Electronic Cigarettes
by Maciej L. Goniewicz, Tomasz Kuma, Michal Gawron, et al.
- Interviews With “Vapers”: Implications for Future Research With Electronic Cigarettes
by Amy McQueen, Stephanie Tower, and Walton Sumner
1. The New York Times, “Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes“