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Davis County health board wants to tweak e-cigarette law

Published August 12, 2014 7:13 pm

E-juice • Manufacturing changes spur proposals making it easier for smoke shops.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Davis County Board of Health wants to make it easier for smoke shops to sell e-cigarettes.

The board, which became the first in Utah to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes last February, proposed six amendments to that law on Tuesday. A public hearing on the proposed changes will be scheduled sometime before the next meeting on Nov. 25.

In the past year, the health department has noticed changes in e-cigarette commerce, Lewis Garrett, director of the health department told the board.

The majority of the smoke shops last fall were manufacturing e-juice — the liquid in the e-cigarette cartridges — and a lot of the regulations were aimed at that part of the business, Garrett said. "We're seeing fewer stores doing that now. They're buying from larger manufacturers."

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn a liquid into vapor, which is inhaled by the user. The e-liquid, also referred to as e-juice or smoke juice, typically includes nicotine and often has flavoring.

The board's six proposed changes would:

• Eliminate the requirement that products be labeled with a warning to keep them away from pets. The warning for children remains.

• Allow more latitude in how the manufacturer describes nicotine content in its label.

• Eliminate the requirement for tamper-resistant seals.

• Eliminate the requirement that convenience stores tell customers how to calculate the percentage of nicotine in a product. Smoke shops and other e-cigarette retailers still will need to provide that information.

• Require that walls — as well as floors and ceilings — be easily cleaned and covered with non-absorbent material in the preparation area of shops that make e-juice.

• Eliminate the requirement for smoke shops to keep the products out of reach of minors, since customers must be 19 years old to enter. The requirement will continue for convenience stores.

Two board members, Chairman Don Wood and County Commissioner Bret Millburn, expressed concern about eliminating the requirement for tamper-resistant seals.

"Everything that's consumed, whether it's dairy-based or even a bottle of water, [has] some kind of a mechanism where a consumer can determine whether or not it's been tampered with," Wood said.

Garrett suggested child-lock caps do the job of a tamper-resistant seal.

Bountiful Mayor Randy Lewis said he worries about future sale of "liquid marijuana" in smoke shops. He recently bought a cheap electronic smoking device "just to see what it looked like," and said he is concerned about what might go into replacement cartridges, and where they originate.

"You know there is a concern that it won't just be menthol," he said about the cartridges.

"In the future sometime... we're going to have a problem with perhaps liquid marijuana. These kind of things seem to always go in a manner that has already been prescribed by society. They get worse until we regulate them."

Last month, 10 U.S. senators introduced a bill — the Child Nicotine Poison Prevention Act of 2014 — to encourage better national regulations for child-resistant closures on e-cigarette products.

The number of emergency calls on children poisoned by e-cigarette products is rising fast, said Utah Poison Control spokeswoman Marty Malheiro.

In 2012, Utah Poison Control had 12 emergency calls. That rose to 75 in 2013, and the center has had 65 cases through July this year, she said.

"Kids are natural explorers," Malheiro said. "They (e-cigarettes) are pretty colors, they smell pretty. The more these (products) are in the home, the more kids are going to get into them. ... We want the public to realize it's a source of poisoning and we want them to be more careful with it in their home."

Davis County focused on e-juice because state law prohibits local jurisdictions from regulating tobacco, and e-cigarettes qualify as tobacco products.

In the most recent legislative session, a bill was introduced to regulate e-cigarettes and products, but failed.

Every health department in Utah, except for TriCounty Health Department in Vernal, adopted or is contemplating similar regulations since Davis County passed its law in February.

dmanley@sltrib.com Twitter: @DanielleKManley