Spokane Regional Health District Board of Health Passes Resolution to Prohibit the Sale of Electronic Cigarettes to Minors


SPOKANE, Wash. – Oct 5, 2010 – Spokane Regional Health District announced today that its board of health unanimously passed a resolution requesting that jurisdictions in Spokane County adopt policies prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes and their component parts to minors. This is the first resolution of its kind in Washington state. To read it in its entirety, click here.

Resolution #10-05 also requests that policies be created that prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes by minors in public places. Additionally, potential policies would prohibit marketing of—and any unsubstantiated claims about—these products to minors.

Electronic cigarettes, which are often made to look like regular cigarettes, are designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to a user in the form of a vapor that is inhaled. Neither the devices, nor their component liquids, are regulated by any government agency, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Limited laboratory studies by the FDA found substandard or non-existent quality control processes used in the manufacturing process.

Said public health director, Dr. Joel McCullough, “Due to the absence of clinical study findings about the safety and effectiveness of these products, consumers currently have no way of knowing whether e-cigarettes are safe. We also don’t know the dose of nicotine being inhaled, or the types and levels of potentially harmful chemicals.”

The chemical nicotine is classified as a drug due to its stimulative, sedative and addictive qualities. Extended exposure to nicotine results in tolerance, requiring escalating doses of the drug to receive the desired stimulation. Withdrawal symptoms from nicotine include cognitive and attention defects, cravings, inability to sleep, and sleep disturbance. SRHD believes it is in the best interest of Spokane County jurisdictions to protect children from these products.

Minors who have never smoked, and other nicotine-naïve minors, may be drawn to how the device is marketed and the uniqueness of its liquid “flavors.” Some electronic cigarette producers market their products to children by utilizing shopping mall kiosks and locations frequented by children. These marketing efforts tout unsubstantiated claims, similar to tactics used previously to entice children to use nicotine products. To that end, the FDA recently issued warning letters to five distributors of electronic cigarettes for violations that include unsubstantiated claims and poor manufacturing practices.

Even though they have the authority, no jurisdiction in Spokane County currently restricts the sale of electronic cigarettes (or component parts) to minors. SRHD’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program recently completed a special emphasis project in Spokane County in which electronic cigarettes were sold to underage youth in over 90% of its attempts.   

SRHD receives several calls every month from concerned citizens and businesses regarding the safety of electronic cigarettes. SRHD’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program offers free advice and support for jurisdictions in Spokane County as they script their ordinances banning the sale, use and marketing of electronic cigarettes in regard to minors. Please call the program at (509) 324-1553. 

More information can also be found at www.srhd.org. The site also offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community.