The need to regulate electronic cigarettes and the liquid nicotine that fuels them is obvious — there is nothing to stop children from buying them, and some are marketed with bright colors and flavors like vanilla cupcake and peach-mango.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has come out strongly against e-cigarettes, especially the flavored ones known as e-hookahs, and every legislator on the state and federal level should join him.

But a report in Monday's New York Times makes this issue even more of an imminent threat to health and safety. The liquid nicotine that is vaporized and inhaled is in fact a strong neurotoxin that can lead to serious and even lethal poisoning if ingested through the skin.

The Times quoted a poison control director in California as saying, "It's not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed. It's a matter of when." .

Poisonings from liquid nicotine rose 300 percent between 2012 and 2013, reported the Times, based on information from the National Poison Data System. Even small amounts can lead to serious poisoning.

It may be true, although there is no evidence yet, that e-cigarettes can be used to help quit smoking. And certainly adults should be able to buy and use them. But just as cigarettes cannot be sold to youths under 18, e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine should be barred from sale to minors.

Blumenthal issued a statement Monday in which he said, "Exploding use — misuse and abuse — of liquid nicotine make federal regulation even more vital to stop poisoning and other public health hazards. … E-liquids are the new snake oil of cigarette marketing — with purity and potency varying widely, and no safeguards. The FDA must act immediately to forestall imminent public health threats from e-cigarettes and toxic nicotine e-liquids."

The senator is correct. The Food and Drug Administration should issue regulations quickly to prevent sale to minors, and to regulate liquid nicotine as it does other toxins.

 

—New Haven Register