BOSTON (AP) - Attorney General Martha Coakley and a group representing Massachusetts physicians urged lawmakers on Tuesday to regulate the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.
The bill would prohibit the sale of nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes, to children under 18. The measure would also prevent e-cigarettes from being used on school property or any other location where smoking is currently not allowed.
The metal or plastic battery-powered devices resemble traditional cigarettes but heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Users get nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.
Coakley told a hearing of the Legislature's public health committee that makers of e-cigarettes have become increasingly aggressive in marketing the products to children.
"Many of the brands include fruit or candy flavors and manufacturers often use cartoon imagery to sell their products," she said.
The bill was initially sponsored by state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Boston, the House chair of the panel, who said that while Massachusetts is a national leader in tobacco prevention efforts, state law is "silent" on the handling of electronic cigarettes.
Dr. Louis Fazen, chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society's public health committee, said that while e-cigarettes are often viewed as being less dangerous than conventional cigarettes, the organization considers them "a gateway product to tobacco abuse and nicotine addiction," and supports restrictions similar to those placed on cigarettes.
The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, an industry group, has said in the past that it agrees that e-cigarettes should be subject to regulation but objects to what it sees as false information about the safety devices or its marketing tactics.
Coakley, a Democratic candidate for governor, recently joined with dozens of other attorneys general in asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to place federal regulations on electronic cigarettes. On Tuesday, Coakley expressed doubt the FDA would be able to meet its own Oct. 31 deadline for issuing proposed rules, given the partial shutdown of the federal government.