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Questions for the Candidates: E-cigarette regulation

Our regular Q & A feature

The nicotine in electronic cigarettes may be harmful.

Getty Images

The nicotine in electronic cigarettes may be harmful.

As e-cigarettes rise in popularity, public health concerns have also grown, and some states and municipalities have started issuing restrictions, banning sales to minors or e-cigarette use in public. As the FDA weighs the risks of vaping at a federal level, Massachusetts’ next governor will have a say in how nicotine vaporizers are regulated in the Commonwealth.

For our first question-and-answer session with the gubernatorial candidates, Globe Opinion asked whether, and how, the state government should restrict sales of e-cigarettes. Answers range from applauding FDA regulations (Democrat Steve Grossman) to telling the government to back off (Republican Mark Fisher). Some see e-cigs as a potentially promising innovation (Democrat Juliette Kayyem) while others are wary of any nicotine product (Democrat Donald Berwick). Here are the candidates’ answers, in the order they were received.

Martha Coakley

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Attorney General, Democrat

@Martha Coakley

Martha Coakley

The recent growth of the e-cigarette market poses a serious and growing public health risk to Massachusetts residents, especially our young people. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that nicotine, the primary active ingredient in many e-cigarettes, has harmful biochemical impacts on a user’s brain and body and is extremely addictive. That’s why I have as Attorney General, and will continue to as Governor, urge the FDA to place restrictions on advertising and sales of e-cigarettes to minors and why I testified in support of legislation at the state level to regulate the sale and use of e-cigarettes.

Jeff McCormick

Venture Capitalist, Independent

@JMacForGov

Jeff McCormick

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As someone who has never been a smoker, I believe that e-cigarettes, like any other drug or supplement that is new to the market, should be regulated. It is very important to protect the health of our children and the general public with some common sense approaches. Regulations should include a ban on marketing to children, age restrictions, limitations on placements in retail shops, and other similar safeguards that are applied to traditional tobacco products. There is very little evidence that e-cigarettes reduce tobacco use. We all know that nicotine is addictive and even though e-cigarettes remove some of the harmful additives that come along with smoking, we still should be mindful that shifting from smoking to vaping is not a public health policy to be promoted.

Donald Berwick

Former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Democrat

@BerwickforMA

Donald Berwick

I am concerned about the increased use of e-cigarettes, particularly because they are often marketed to young people as a purportedly safer alternative — creating a new generation of nicotine users.

We cannot back away as a Commonwealth from our commitment to tobacco cessation. As Governor, I will prioritize those critical and effective public health programs.

Mark Fisher

Small business owner, Republican

@markfisher2014

Mark Fisher

I trust that the good citizens of the Commonwealth can decide for themselves how to run their lives and pursue happiness without any interference from the State regarding the sale of e-cigarettes. If the State were to be involved in this, then what’s next, banning Santa Claus because he smokes a pipe, is overweight and has rosy cheeks after enjoying an adult beverage? The State should stop imposing its version of happiness and allow its citizens to pursue happiness on their own terms. It’s their God-given right to do so.

Joe Avellone

Biotech executive, Democrat

@AvelloneForGov

Joe Avellone

My administration will outlaw sales of e-cigarettes to minors to prevent these devices from leading more young people to smoke tobacco products. Massachusetts has been a leader in tobacco prevention but remains silent on e-cigarettes. The CDC recently reported that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has doubled since 2011. We must continue to protect our youth from the dangers of smoking and there is pending legislation that aims to do just that. I will actively support and promote legislation such as House Bill 3726 which seeks to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18 and to prevent them from being used on school grounds or wherever smoking is currently prevented.

Juliette Kayyem

Former homeland security official and Globe columnist, Democrat

@juliettekayyem

Juliette Kayyem

I believe we should encourage innovations like e-cigarettes, which potentially give us a healthier alternative to cigarettes, and I would support measures in Massachusetts that encourage research into this type of product. However, we must be vigilant to make sure that these devices are not getting into the hands of minors. We must also require that e-cigarette manufacturers have scientific evidence to back up any health claims and that they make public the ingredients in their product so that consumers know what is going in their bodies.

Steve Grossman

State Treasurer, Democrat

@SteveGrossmanMA

Steve Grossman

I support reasonable restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes and applaud the FDA for proposing new rules restricting sales to minors as well as requiring health labels and disclosure of ingredients. I also understand that e-cigarettes can be an effective alternative for those trying to quit smoking. When 480,000 Americans are killed by tobacco-related deaths each year, we must explore the wide-ranging impact of any public policy in reducing those deaths. But making it easier for young children to start smoking is not the answer. We must significantly increase our state’s funding for education and awareness around the health dangers of all types of smoking products, including e-cigarettes. I look forward to seeing Massachusetts implement the FDA’s regulations as quickly as possible.

Evan Falchuk

Health care entrepreneur, Independent

@eFalchuk

Charlie Baker

Former health insurance executive, Republican

@CharlieForGov

Charlie Baker

More information is certainly needed on the health effects associated with the use electronic cigarettes. Additionally, we should enact tough regulations and penalties for the sale and marketing of electronic cigarettes to minors.

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