A new law gives stores in Suffolk County, New York, 90 days to post warnings about the dangers of the liquid nicotine found in e-cigarettes.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed the law on Monday. The new signs, which must be placed “in a conspicuous place at the register,” warn that liquid nicotine can be fatal and addictive. The move was spurred, in part, by the death of an 18-month-old child last year, and increased calls to poison control centers, according to Newsday.
“It’s imperative we do everything in our power to prevent another tragic death from liquid nicotine,” Legislator Sarah Anker, a Democrat from Mount Sinai, New York, told Newsday. Anker sponsored the bill.
E-cigarettes are increasingly popular, particularly among young people. Unlike traditional cigarettes which burn tobacco, electronic cigarettes release vapor containing nicotine that the user inhales, or “vapes.” Liquid nicotine is sold in varying colors and flavors, making them highly attractive to teens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that vaping doubles the odds that the user will take up cigarette smoking. Furthermore, according to The Des Moines Register, nicotine increases blood pressure and heart rate and may be potentially harmful to brain development.
Lawmakers are perhaps even more concerned for young children, who may mistake canisters of liquid nicotine for candy and drink them.
“You can see these are products that would obviously be attractive to small children,” Bellone pointed out to Newsday, holding up a container of red strawberry-flavored liquid nicotine.
Gas station retailers fought the bill, arguing that the signs would take up too much space at registers and put a burden on their businesses. Last year, a county law was passed that increased the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. Retailers also fought that legislation, Newsday reported.
The liquid nicotine law goes into effect in 90 days. Violators face a civil penalty of $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for subsequent violations. The county health department will enforce the law via complaints and regular inspections. The new signs will read, “KEEP OUT OF CHILDREN’S REACH” and “INGESTION OF LIQUID NICOTINE MAY BE FATAL,” among other warnings. Retailers must download the signs from the Suffolk County website, according to Newsday.
E-cigarettes may be harmful to adults, as well. An analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that liquid nicotine contains formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Exposure to formaldehyde in the form of e-cigarettes could be as much as 15 times higher than from smoking traditional cigarettes, The Des Moines Register reported.