While praising recent restrictions on smoking, e-cigarettes, and vaping products, a coalition of Texas health organizations called on state lawmakers to do even more to keep children from using those products.
“The Texas Legislature, U.S. Congress, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took bold actions, raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21 and restricting the sale of many flavored e-cigarettes,” the Texas Public Health Coalition (TPHC) said in a public statement. “However, we still have a great deal of work left to regulate and enforce restrictions on these harmful products.”
The FDA announced last week that it will ban most flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products by the end of the month. However, the ban does not apply to menthol and tobacco-flavored products, and vape shops still will be allowed to sell flavors from tank-based systems.
In addition, President Donald J. Trump signed a law last month that bans the sale of tobacco products – including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes – to anyone younger than 21.
And thanks to Texas Medical Association advocacy, Texas lawmakers passed a law last year that raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in this state from 18 to 21, except for active-duty military personnel.
In its statement, the public health coalition said the partial ban on flavored products does not go far enough, and that stores and sellers need to strictly enforce minimum-age requirements.
The coalition called on Texas lawmakers to take the following steps to further curb tobacco use:
1. Banning all characterizing flavors – including menthol – in all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
2. Increasing taxes on conventional cigarettes and imposing an excise tax on e-cigarettes that achieves parity with combustible cigarettes. Use tax revenue for additional evidence-based tobacco cessation programming at the Texas Department of State Health Services and retail enforcement activities.
3. Strengthen enforcement measures on all tobacco and e-cigarette retailers to ensure compliance.
In Texas, 236 confirmed and possible cases of EVALI, or e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, have been reported as of Tuesday – including three deaths, according to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
The third death was a 15-year-old Dallas County resident who had a chronic underlying medical condition. Dallas County health officials did not release any additional information.
Nationwide, 2,561 EVALI cases have been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, as of Dec. 27. Fifty-five deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and D.C.
The Public Health Coalition comprises more than 30 health professional organizations and health-focused organizations, including TMA, that are dedicated to disease prevention and health promotion.