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California lawmaker wants to extend tobacco regulations to e-cigarettes, citing danger to kids

SAN MATEO, Calif. - A San Francisco congresswoman unveiled legislation Friday that would regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way as typical tobacco products, accusing the e-cigarette industry of targeting children and teenagers with its marketing.

"With flavours like gummy bear, cotton candy, and chocolate cake, our kids are literally vaping these things up," said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, who announced the proposal outside the San Francisco General Hospital emergency room. "With ads using sex and sex appeal, our teens are lusting after these objects."

The legislation would restrict television advertisements of electronic cigarettes as was done for tobacco, said a statement from Speier's spokeswoman, Katrina Rill. Speier plans to introduce the bill Monday to regulate the devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution to create inhalable vapour.

The proposal would also prohibit marketing to minors, bar advertising that increases use by children and ban most flavourings in the products. It would require the Food and Drug Administration to establish childproof packaging standards and dosage limits.

The move comes as the FDA also looks to impose e-cigarette regulations. The federal agency said Friday it was extending the public comment period to August on a proposal to ban sales to minors, add warning labels and require new products to get FDA approval. Its measure doesn't restrict marketing or ban flavours but leaves room for further regulations.

Poisonings and burnings by e-cigarettes have increased, said Dr. Neal Benowitz, associate medical director of the San Francisco Division of the California Poison Control System, which is based at San Francisco General.

"We have seen a significant jump from two to three cases of e-cigarette-related poisoning per month in 2012 to 12 cases in 2014," he said.

Dr. Tomas Aragon of the San Francisco Department of Public Health said regulating e-cigarettes like regular tobacco products is a common-sense move to "prevent increased recruitment of our youth into a life of nicotine addiction."

Messages requesting comment from advocacy groups — including the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association and the Electronic Cigarette Industry Group — were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

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