Two Connecticut lawmakers on Tuesday announced a drive in Congress to require child-proof bottles of liquid nicotine used for e-cigarettes.
Backed by 12 Senate Democrats, it's the latest effort seeking regulations of the battery-powered devices smokers use to inhale vapor from a heated liquid nicotine solution and accessories such as liquid nicotine refill bottles.
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"The fact of the matter is that we are now in the wild, wild west of liquid nicotine," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said at a news conference at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington.
Manufacturers of liquid nicotine should follow the lead of aspirin and drain cleaners, which are packaged in child-resistant bottles, Blumenthal said.
"This kind of public health measure makes perfect common sense," he said.
Blumenthal and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., said they are responding to a rising number of poisonings.
Potentially toxic exposures from e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine have risen nearly eight-fold, from 271 in 2011 to 2,313 so far this year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
Representatives of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association and Altria Group, which owns numerous traditional cigarette and e-cigarette brands, did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment.
Other officials have demanded additional regulations. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is urging the federal government to strengthen proposed regulations for electronic cigarettes to include a ban on the sale of flavored products.
Madigan and 28 other state attorneys general submitted comments on Aug. 8 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on its proposed e-cigarette rules. The officials also want the FDA to make e-cigarettes subject to the same advertising and marketing restrictions as tobacco products.
The proposed FDA rules would ban sales to minors, add warning labels and require new products to get the agency's approval. It wouldn't restrict marketing or ban flavors but would leave room for further regulations.
Esty's complaints about e-cigarettes struck a similar note to attacks against the tobacco industry over marketing to youngsters before the 1998 settlement with state attorneys general reshaped industry regulations and standards.
"I am horrified that we now have an even more lethal and more enticing version that we as a country have not yet addressed," she said.