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Child-proofing for e-liquids on agenda in US senate

Child-proofing for e-liquids on agenda in US senate

A bill requiring child-proof caps on all e-liquids has been unanimously approved by the US Senate's Commerce Committee. This is good news on a number of fronts. First and foremost, of course, it will protect children from being poisoned when careless household members fail to keep these bottles away from toddlers.

Another benefit is that such a law will be a big step toward reducing attacks on vaping as a vast conspiracy to poison children. Last year there was a spike in calls to poison centers when a number of little tykes drank e-liquids. One toddler even died in upstate New York. Anti-vaping activists and journalists jumped on the issue and blamed vaping itself instead of the careless parents. The death was an anomaly, since such incidents always results in profuse vomiting, which solves the problem by expelling the substance. Although the American Association of Poison Control Centers warns that a teaspoon of e-liquid can kill a small child, it would be more accurate to say that if could do so if the child could keep it down. In any case, such stories provided the anti-vaping press with many an alarmist headline.

So child-proofing regulation has been long overdue (as is a national ban on sale of e-cigs to youth, another need the dilatory FDA still hasn't met). Responsible vaping supplies companies have child-proofed their containers themselves, partially solving the problem with self-policing within the industry, and responsible vapers tend to buy from such responsible companies. The problem, therefore, is likely to wane, although a national child-proofing ban is still a need.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida sponsored the bill in question (the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act) as early as last summer, but it never made it to the floor of the dysfunctional US Congress, despite shrieks of alarm all around the country, and successful state-level bills in several states. “It’s simply common sense to make this potentially lethal product as difficult as possible for small children to get into,” says Nelson. The bill's chances look good this year, since it is starting early, and has bipartisan support (partisan bickering is a major reason the US Congress can't get anything done these days). Democrats are typically the supporters of all manner of public welfare legislation, and Republicans are typically aligned with big business interests, which sometimes oppose regulation, and this can translate into support for Big Tobacco.

In this case, all of those interests coincide on the current issue, unless anti-smoking advocates want to keep the danger alive as a brickbat for continued vape-bashing.

With passage of the bill, Congress will charge the Consumer Product Safety Commission with enforcement, thus bypassing the FDA, which is too busy, publicizing trace levels of toxicants in e-liquids (innocuous when used as intended), to do its job of regulating a packaging issue that can have lethal consequences.