The use of e-cigarettes across the globe has been on the rise; e-cigarettes have been marketed as the alternative to smokers willing to quit tobacco smoking. Nonetheless, it has been noted that the marketing of e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking has led to higher consumption by students in middle and high schools. Indeed, the number of high school students using e-cigarettes is higher than the number of adults consuming them. There are public health fears that experimenting with e-cigarettes may entice students to start conventional smoking eroding the gains achieved in controlling and reducing consumption of tobacco. The high usage of e-cigarettes among young people in the United States has been blamed on unregulated production, sale and use of e-cigarettes. There is need to enact rules and regulations to regulate the use of e-cigarettes in the US (Tremblay et al, 2015).
There is need to develop a national strategic framework on e-cigarette encompassing laws and regulations is of utmost importance to make sure initiatives on controlling tobacco use are successful. This framework is principally essential for the United States due to its federal structure; there are notable differences in the regulation of e-cigarettes across the states and local governments. A policy that is nationally defined and coordinated centrally will permit for shared goals and support consistency in policy measures. The federal government should be at the forefront in leading the formulation, passing and enactment of national e-cigarette policies that are in line with the policies ratified to control tobacco use. The policies should be compatible with policies on tobacco control developed by the WHO. Their development should be evidence-based and easy to review in light of issues that may arise in the future (Tremblay et al, 2015).
The policies should be formulated in such a way that a balance has been struck between probable benefits of e-cigarettes and still offer protection against prospective harms e-cigarettes might cause to persons and the entire American population. Major tobacco companies in the world have developed and started producing e-cigarettes. The policy developers must be mindful of this tactics that are employed by players in the tobacco industry to defeat and sway policies put in place to control tobacco use. Tobacco industry players should not be allowed to make commercial gains in the expense of public health (Tremblay et al, 2015).
In the absence of substantiation that would permit the correct assessment of harms versus benefits of e-cigarettes, this paper recommends strict laws to regulate the production, promotion, sale and use of e-cigarette focusing mainly on protection of the young people. European parliament passed a law to strictly regulate the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes. The law made it illegal to advertise e-cigarettes in all European countries as well as a demand for written health warnings in all e-cigarette packages highlighting the addictive and harmful nature of nicotine. E-cigarettes will be sold as consumer product as opposed to earlier version where they were regulated as medicine (Tremblay et al, 2015).
Imposition of excise taxes has proved effective in controlling the use of tobacco products. Higher prices arising from increased taxes on cigarettes have disheartened people from smoking. Similarly, e-cigarettes should be subjected to taxes though at a relatively lower than or same rate as conventional tobacco to discourage users of e-cigarette from switching to tobacco cigarettes. Research carried out in six European Union countries showed that an increase in prices of e-cigarettes arising from imposed taxes led to an 8.2% decrease in sales. It was noted that e-cigarettes are more responsive to price changes compared to the tobacco cigarette thus policy makers on taxing e-cigarettes must take this issue into consideration (Tremblay et al, 2015).
Policy on packaging and labelling demand must be implemented. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes must disclose all the ingredients and level of concentrations in e-liquids. The package should be plain such that the packets are less appealing to the young people. Furthermore, labels on health warning must be clearly indicated on the packaging material. In addition, e-cigarettes flavours popular with the youth such as mint and menthol should be prohibited. To prevent children poisoning and discourage use of e-cigarettes by children, the packaging should be child-proof. The commission on consumer product safety would add nicotine to its list of regulated substances thereby facilitating application of the above recommendations (Tremblay et al, 2015).
State and local government should pass and put into effect laws that restrict sales of cigarettes to young people, outlaw the distribution of free samples and coupons for e-cigarettes. Moreover, smoking of e-cigarettes in undesignated public places as well as indoor smoking and smoking in places of employment should be made illegal. These rules should be incorporated in the existing laws governing clean indoor air (Tremblay et al, 2015).
The federal and state governments should fund research projects aimed at offering evidence on how e-cigarettes affect uses both in the short term and in the long term as well as effects of exposure to e-cigarette vapour. It will also provide evidence on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in aiding smokers to quit smoking. In addition, the research will offer invaluable information on how inhaling flavouring chemicals contained in e-cigarettes affect human body (Tremblay et al, 2015).
Timeline and lifespan of policy plan
E-cigarettes have been in existence for a few years now and they are a constantly evolving consumer product. Various stakeholders including the government, public health practitioners and the general population have debated on their safety and health effects as well as the argument that they aid in quitting smoking. There is a general agreement among players in the health sector that smoking e-cigarette is less harmful compared to tobacco smoking but their harmful effects on individuals and the population are not known or documented. The varying opinions among stakeholders and absence of scientific evidence make it extremely hard to formulate laws and legislation to regulate use of e-cigarettes.
Various state governments have taken different tactics in a bid to regulate e-cigarettes. In some states it is legal to sell e-cigarette containing nicotine as a consumer product while in other states; retail sale of e-cigarettes is banned. Nonetheless, until the time when there will be robust and evidence-based data that can be relied on to make sound policies, the US population and the policy makers are uncertain on the best course of action. There is need to undertake further research on how e-cigarettes affect public health. However, efforts must be made to reduce the increasing consumption of e-cigarettes by young people. The increasing use of e-cigarette should not be allowed to dent the achievements made in the battle against tobacco smoking, its addictive effects and devastating health effects. Focus on e-cigarette should not sway stakeholders from their campaign aimed at assisting people to either reduce or quit smoking. Loss of focus will be catastrophic both to the present and future generation.
Tremblay, M. C. et al (2015). “Regulation profiles of e-cigarettes in the United States: a critical review with qualitative synthesis.” Journal of BMC Medicine, issue 13 vol. 130. Retrieved from https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12916-015-0370-z
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