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Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 09:17

E-cigarettes 'should be banned for minors'

By Agence France-Presse in Washington
E-cigarettes 'should be banned for minors'

This September 25, 2013 photo illustration taken in Washington, DC, shows a woman smoking an "Blu" e-cigarette. (Photo / AFP)

E-cigarettes should be subject to the same regulations as cigarettes and should not be sold to minors, the American Heart Association said in new policy guidelines released on Monday.

The use of e-cigarettes has been increasing rapidly among young people in recent years, raising concerns about the potential for addiction risks and health damage.

E-cigarettes are electrical devices that heat flavored nicotine liquid into a vapor that is inhaled, much like traditional cigarettes but without the smoke.

They are unregulated, meaning they can be sold to young people and are openly advertised, whereas cigarette makers must follow strict rules about where and how their products are marketed.

The association's guidelines go a step further than a US Food and Drug Administration proposal in April, which set out a new series of regulations on e-cigarettes that included banning their sale to minors, but did not restrict advertising or online sales of the candy and fruit-flavored liquids that some say are targeted at young people.

The new rules have not yet been implemented.

"Recent studies raise concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional tobacco products for the nation's youth, and could renormalize smoking in our society," said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the association.

"These disturbing developments have helped convince the association that e-cigarettes need to be strongly regulated, thoroughly researched and closely monitored."

The guidelines, published in the journal Circulation, recommend that since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they "should be subject to all laws that apply to these products".

The association also calls for strong new regulations to prevent access, sales and marketing of e-cigarettes to young people, and for more research into the product's health impact.

Sales of e-cigarettes have risen sharply since they were introduced to the market in 2007, according to US health officials.

The proportion of high school students who tried e-cigarettes rose from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012, and sales could top $2 billion this year, according to industry estimates.

Georgetown University pulmonologist Nathan Cobb said the association "is right in calling for this minimal set of regulations to be implemented no later than the end of the year".

He said more aggressive regulations should follow.

"They can and should be part of a concerted regulatory push to drive toward a tobacco 'end game," which increases the price of combusted tobacco cigarettes, while guaranteeing the safety and consistency of e-cigarettes."

Cobb added that the FDA's "bare bones regulations" fall short because they subject manufacturers to "significantly less oversight and safety requirements than pet food manufacturers, and are truly a minimum".

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