BOSTON — The federal government shutdown will slow down Food and Drug Administration regulations for e-cigarettes, originally planned to be released Oct. 31, Attorney General Martha Coakley predicted yesterday when testifying before lawmakers contemplating restrictions for the unregulated products.
“It is a regulatory process that seems to take forever, and I am not hopeful, given the events in Washington, that these will be out by the end of October,” Coakley told the Committee on Public Health while testifying on legislation imposing regulations (H 3639).
Forty-four cities and towns, including Boston, have imposed regulations on e-cigarettes, but state law is silent on the increasingly popular products.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated products that deliver nicotine by vaporizing it.
The FDA extended its deadline once for releasing regulations for e-cigarettes and nicotine delivery products. Lawmakers cannot wait for the federal government to restrict sales to minors, and prohibit use of the products in places where smoking is banned, Coakley said.
“There is no reason for Massachusetts not to act,” she said. “Down the road, I am convinced the federal regulations will cover gaps in our laws . . . We need something sooner.”
On Sept. 24, attorney generals from 40 states sent a letter to the FDA urging the agency to meet its deadline and regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products. Coakley was among them.
E-cigarette users said they have no problem prohibiting sales to minors, but they object to restricting use in public spaces or other spots with tobacco bans.
Such restrictions will force them back outside with smokers, sucking in their second-hand smoke, they said.
Big tobacco companies are intentionally marketing to teens with catchy names, flavors and advertising, those pushing for restrictions said.
Use among youth has doubled in the last year, according to Kevin O’Flaherty, director of advocacy of Northeast region for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. By the end of 2013, approximately 1.7 billion nicotine delivery products will be sold in the United States.
“This is what the industry is trying to do. They are trying to undo your progress, get kids addicted and smoke more,” O’Flaherty told lawmakers.