New York Times
POSTED: 8:49 p.m. HST, Jul 22, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 8:52 p.m. HST, Jul 22, 2014
PARK CITY, Utah » State attorneys general must investigate, and consider taking legal action, against certain e-cigarette companies that appear to be using some of the same advertising tactics that once drew young adults into smoking, a Kentucky deputy attorney general told his law enforcement colleagues gathered here for a retreat to discuss emerging legal issues in states nationwide.
The gathering of nearly two dozen attorneys general, and senior members of their staffs, came on the 20th anniversary of the initiation of the historic lawsuit that states filed against tobacco companies — resulting ultimately in an approximately $10 billion annual payment, which is still being made, and an agreement to restrict advertising on everything from outdoor billboards to sports events, to try to curtail the appeal of tobacco to youths.
Sean Riley, the chief deputy attorney general of Kentucky, told his law enforcement colleagues that Kentucky had left behind its status as the state with the highest percentage of youth smokers. But he said he is concerned that e-cigarette advertising could reverse that progress. He cited several examples.
He said that nicotine in e-cigarettes is not healthy for use by young people, and the e-cigarettes, whose use has surged among school-age children nationwide, might be turning into a gateway to cigarette smoking, instead of a way to quit.
"We are at the very beginning stages of a new sort of revolutionary product here," Riley said.
Jeffrey Weiss, the general counsel at NJOY, an independently owned e-cigarette company, said he agreed that the state and federal authorities must move to adopt regulations appropriately governing e-cigarettes, such as limiting sales to youths.
But he said that the industry's growth was actually a public health boon — given the role that e-cigarettes can play in helping people quit smoking cancer-causing tobacco cigarettes.
"We can save millions of lives," Weiss said.
Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, a Democrat, who has been in office since the tobacco case was settled in 1998, said that law enforcement officials must tread carefully.
"The price of getting it wrong either way is high," Miller told his colleagues, noting that if they do not regulate the industry properly, e-cigarettes might increase tobacco use among youths, but if they regulate the industry too intensely, it might limit the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a way to quit tobacco.