October 6, 2017
STATE HOUSE – A new law approved by the General Assembly Sept. 19 and signed into law yesterday requires child-resistant packaging for e-liquid used in electronic nicotine-delivery systems such as e-cigarettes, and bans e-cigarette use on school grounds. The legislation (2017-H 5876A, 2017-S 0402A), sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Rep. Teresa Tanzi on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, takes effect Jan. 1. “It is unfortunate enough that e-liquids are being marketed in flavors and bright colors that are obviously intended to tempt young people and children. At the bare minimum, they should be sold in child-proof containers to keep their toxic contents out of the mouths of small children who think they look like candy or juice. This is a standard requirement for over-the-counter drugs, and we should hold e-liquid to at least the same standard to protect kids,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). E-liquids contain nicotine in its purest form mixed with flavoring, coloring, and assorted chemicals, and can be extremely dangerous especially for children who may be attracted to them by their color and sweet, candy-like smell. The new law requires all liquid “intended for human consumption and/or use in an electronic nicotine-delivery system” to be contained in child-resistant packaging, which means packaging that is designed to be significantly difficult for children under 5 to open or obtain a harmful amount of the substance inside within a reasonable time. While a federal law requiring childproof packaging for e-liquid took effect last year, a state law addressing the issue would enable the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to enforce violations by licensed distributors. States across the country, including Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, require e-cigarette and vaping liquids to be packaged in child-resistant packaging. The new law also adds electronic nicotine delivery systems to the statute that bans tobacco use on school property, to ensure that the state law banning smoking on school property includes e-cigarettes and vaping. “E-cigarettes are, quite simply, just another way to consume nicotine, and unfortunately, it is a method that has particular appeal to kids because it offers enticing flavors. We banned cigarettes on school property decades ago, and we should not leave an opening for e-cigarettes, or it would send kids a message that they are safe to use. They aren’t, and they don’t belong on school property,” said Senate President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). Said Attorney General Kilmartin, “The popularity and use of e-cigarettes and vaping products continues to rise. While the jury is still out on the health effects of e-cigarettes versus the known health problems caused by traditional nicotine products, we can all agree that these products should be kept out of the hands of children. Most troubling is that these products – especially e-liquids – come in a variety of enticing flavors, such as candy crush and gummy bear, which appeal to children. There is currently no such regulation on this toxic product with respect to child-resistant packaging.” According to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, nicotine is an acute toxin and exposure by swallowing or contact with the skin can result in nausea, vomiting, respiratory arrest, seizure and even death. The Centers for Disease Control report a dramatic increase in the number of calls related to e-cigarette liquid exposure, especially among children. According to a study released by the CDC in April 2014, the number of calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. More than half (51.1 percent) of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under the age of five.