In response to Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Executive Order last week on the public health epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) promulgated today, October 4, 2019, emergency health regulations banning the sale of flavored electronic nicotine-delivery system (ENDS) products in Rhode Island.
"I'm deeply concerned about the rapid increase and effects of e-cigarette use among youth. That's why in Rhode Island we're taking action to ensure that companies can no longer market these products with colorful packaging and candy-based flavors," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "This is a public health crisis, and the regulations announced today will help to protect our kids' health."
The use of ENDS products among young people has become a public health epidemic in Rhode Island. Approximately one in five (20%) high school students in Rhode Island reports regularly using an ENDS product, and 15% of middle school students report having experimented with them. A majority of youth e-cigarette users report using flavored products, including mango, cucumber, vanilla, cherry, mint, and cotton candy. Most youth e-cigarette users first start using e-cigarettes with a flavored product, and flavors are the primary reason youth report using e-cigarettes.
Health risks to young people from e-cigarette use include nicotine addiction, learning, memory, and mental health problems, lung illnesses, heart problems, injuries resulting from battery explosions, and accidental childhood nicotine poisonings. High school students who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to smoke lit cigarettes in the future.
"We know that youth in all communities and in all populations are impacted by this public health epidemic," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "And we want to prevent youth from immediate nicotine health harms and from becoming cigarette smokers in the future."
Teens addicted to vaping nicotine can use the Truth Initiative's This Is Quitting text-based app. Text HOPE4RI to 88709.
The regulation banning the manufacture, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of, flavored ENDS products takes effect immediately. Compassion centers, which offer THC-based vaping products to registered medical marijuana patients, and licensed cultivators are exempt from this ban. Compassion centers and licensed cultivators registered with the State of Rhode Island are already highly regulated by RIDOH and the Department of Business Regulation. RIDOH will consider taking further action regarding THC-based vaping in conjunction with the advice of the Vaping Advisory Committee being formed pursuant to Governor Raimondo's Executive Order.
These emergency health regulations are in place for 120 days and can then be extended for an additional 60 days. The standard process for promulgating non-emergency health regulations will then be followed.
RIDOH conducted extensive community outreach before promulgating these regulations. That outreach included discussions with the business industry, healthcare providers, community partners, other State agencies, prevention and cessation advocates, parents, youth, and members of the General Assembly.
RIDOH staff has been working closely with staff on the free quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW/1-800-784-8669) to assure they are ready to support any Rhode Islander, age 13 and older, who wants help to quit smoking or vaping. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is available at no charge to any Rhode Islander age 18 and older, regardless of insurance status. NRT should not be used in combination with e-cigarettes.
Dealers and distributors must self-certify, at the time of initial application and every renewal application that none of the electronic nicotine-delivery system products they make, sell, or provide to consumers in Rhode Island are flavored electronic nicotine-delivery system products. Enforcement of these emergency regulations will be an interagency effort using existing inspection processes and resources.
Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-1-57, any distributor or dealer who sells, offers for sale, or possesses with intent to sell, electronic nicotine-delivery system products to consumers in the State of Rhode Island, without the appropriate license, shall be fined in amounts set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-1-58. Compassion centers and licensed cultivators registered with the State of Rhode Island under R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 21-28.6 are exempt from this ban.