TMA Supports Bill to Prohibit E-Cigarettes on School Campuses

Testimony by Joel Dunnington, MD

House Committee on Public Education
House Bill 456 by Rep. Roland Gutierrez

Feb. 24, 2015

Good morning, Chair Aycock and members of the committee. I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Pediatric Society in support of House Bill 456 by Rep. Roland Gutierrez. I’m Dr. Joel Dunnington, a retired professor of radiology; I was with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for 25 years. I have also been a member of TMA’s Council on Public Health and Board of Trustees, and was a pro bono consultant on the Texas Tobacco Lawsuit. 

Texas physicians support HB 456 because it addresses one of TMA’s legislative priorities to restrict access of minors to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). We believe prohibiting the use and possession of vapor products, also called e-cigarettes, on school property will help reduce minors’ access to these products.

TMA reviewed studies on e-cigarette use last year and found many states and communities had already restricted the use of these products. Texas is only one of 10 states that have not already restricted the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Several studies on e-cigarettes have identified the major components of e-cigarettes (nicotine, propylene glycol, and/or glycerin). There is no water in e-cigarettes. However, because these are unregulated products with poor quality control, physicians and public health experts are concerned about the lack of information on the precise amount and type of compounds in the many different brands of e-cigarettes, and the potential short- and long-term health effects of the compounds produced by heating in these devices.  

The marketing to young people of these products worries physicians. We join others in expressing concern that young people using these products will also use other tobacco products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported e-cigarette use among U.S. students in grades 6-12 doubled from 2011 to 2012. And while cigarettes, little cigars, and spitting tobacco are the tobacco products most likely to be used by high school students, in 2013 almost 5 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes.  This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with other health organizations, has called for prompt response from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on regulating e-cigarettes. Public health officials also have expressed concern that wider e-cigarette use will “normalize” this behavior and lead to greater tobacco use. 

The World Health Organization, American Cancer Society, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Lung Association, and American Heart Association urge caution in recognizing e-cigarettes as a tobacco-cessation or harm-reduction strategy for current tobacco users because of the lack of scientific evidence on the safety of these products. E-cigarettes also have not been approved as either a cessation or a replacement product for cigarettes by FDA. While regulations are expected from FDA on e-cigarettes in the future, the market and use for e-cigarettes is growing rapidly. We must take steps today to curtail access to these products for minors. 

As you review HB 456 and other health-related proposals for schools, we offer our assistance in your work and will continue to encourage you to support a healthy school environment where children can learn and maintain their health. We must continue to respond to new public health threats to the health of our children, and we believe HB 456 is a responsible step to take in this direction.

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