One in five high school seniors in Washington reported e-cigarette use in 2014, up from one in fourteen in 2012. Nicotine is particularly harmful to brain development in children and a recent study found that teens who start using e-cigarettes are 8 times more likely to take up smoking.
Recent studies have shown the increasing popularity among high school students of using e-cigarettes to smoke cannabis. Kids who use nicotine or marijuana at a young age are susceptible to addiction and continued use in adulthood. “As compared with persons who begin to use marijuana in adulthood, those who begin in adolescence are approximately 2 to 4 times as likely to have symptoms of cannabis dependence within 2 years after first use.”
E-liquid, the nicotine-containing component, can poison children via ingestion, inhalation, ocular exposure, and skin contact. In 2015, at least 61 e-cigarette poisonings have been reported, with 59 percent involving 1 to 3 year olds. E-liquids are often sold without child resistant packaging and in alluring candy-like flavors, including caramel apple, wacky taffy and bubble gum.
The FDA does not currently regulate ingredients or safety claims made by manufacturers. Some products that are labeled “nicotine-free” actually contain small amounts of nicotine. A Harvard study also recently discovered diacetyl, an ingredient known to cause “popcorn lung” (bronchiolitis obliterans), in 75 percent of the flavored e-liquids they tested.
In Washington, state law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but doesn’t do anything else to regulate e-cigarettes or the people who sell them (including online sellers). Grant, King, Pierce, Clark, and Snohomish Counties have passed ordinances regulating e-cigarettes. Other counties are considering similar ordinances.