Thursday, April 24, 2014

Regulate nicotine and marijuana products to prevent youth use

An article in the latest edition of the American Journal of Public Health suggests that it is important for pubic health policies for preventing youth marijuana use to be instituted as soon as possible in states like Washington.  Policies should be adopted before an industry with significant lobbying power is fully established.  The article states, “The lesson for marijuana may be to establish authorities’ rights to impose regulations from the outset because of how difficult it can be to expand regulator scope” after an industry is well established. 

The Food and Drug Administration’s recent announcement that they plan to regulate e-cigarettes, devices that vaporize liquid nicotine products, provides a perfect example.  As the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids notes, “Three years after first announcing plans to do so, the Food and Drug Administration today has finally issued a proposed rule to begin regulating electronic cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products not currently under its jurisdiction . . . It is inexcusable that it has taken the FDA and the Administration so long to act." 

Barriers to regulation
According to a New York Times article about the FDA’s proposed regulations, “Thursday’s release of the blueprint — which is hundreds of pages long — is sure to set off a frantic lobbying effort in Washington as affected industries try to head off the costliest, most restrictive regulations.”

“Members of the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, one of the e-cigarette industry trade groups, descended on Washington in November, and reported holding nearly 50 meetings with congressional officials to help them “learn more about the negative impact inappropriate regulation could have on this nascent industry,” the group said in a statement.”

“The industry has several trade associations, and a number of them have met with Obama administration officials about the regulations over the past several months, according to public records and industry group statements.”

Before a similar industry is established for marijuana, Washington State regulators would be smart to act now to adopt policies for marijuana based on what has been proven to prevent youth alcohol and tobacco use.  According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the delay in e-cigarette regulations "has had serious public health consequences as these unregulated tobacco products have been marketed using tactics and sweet flavors that appeal to kids, and their use has skyrocketed.”

Skyrocketing use of marijuana vaporizers
Just like the use of nicotine vaporizers has skyrocketed among teenagers, the use of marijuana vaporizers has also skyrocketed among teenagers according to state officials. "Right now in Washington, if you are in mid twenties and younger, you prefer hash oils and vaporization as opposed to smoking," said Randy Simmons, Program Director for I-502 for the Washington State Liquor Control Board in a recent KOMO News story.

Regulating e-joints
Among the FDA’s proposed regulations is a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors, a regulation that the King County Board of Health adopted in 2010.  The sale of marijuana vaporizers to minors could be banned on a statewide level and online.  Like the ban on e-cigarette sales to minors, such a regulation would be one way to reduce the number of minors who try and regularly use what is erroneously seen as a safe way to use marijuana.

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