U.S. convenience stores should sell electronic cigarettes only to adults, following the same ID procedures used for tobacco sales, according to a position statement issued by a national association of stores Friday.
The National Association of Convenience Stores, which represents about 3,800 retailers and supplier companies, said convenience stores are the largest retail outlet for e-cigarettes with nearly $540 million in sales in 2013.
“As responsible retailers, we want to help ensure that minors do not have access to e-cigarettes,” Henry Armour, president and CEO of the association, said in a statement.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver a vapor of nicotine and other additives. The Food and Drug Administration plans to start regulating e-cigarettes, but currently there is no good information about the amounts and types of potentially harmful ingredients.
What’s clear is that more young people are using these products, which often come in kid-friendly flavors such as fruit, chocolate or mint.
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey that found the number of middle school and high school kids who have tried e-cigarettes more than doubled between 2011 and 2013. The survey showed more than 1.78 million middle and high school students tried e-cigarettes in 2012.
The survey also found that more than three quarters of the students who used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days had also smoked regular cigarettes.
“Keeping e-cigarettes away from young people is important, and we applaud the National Association of Convenience Stores for taking this step,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “There is a major concern that e-cigarettes may be an entry point for young people to begin using more traditional tobacco products. It’s imperative that we keep the tobacco industry from addicting yet another generation of smokers.”
The American Heart Association cites cigarette smoking as the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States, accounting for more than 440,000 of the more than 2.4 million annual deaths.
“Every day, each of the 1,200 Americans who die from tobacco-related diseases is replaced by two smokers under the age of 26,” Brown said after the CDC report was issued. “If e-cigarettes are luring high school and middle school students into a lifetime of addiction, it represents a public health tragedy. We cannot sentence more young Americans to a lifetime of battling cardiovascular disease because of tobacco addiction.”
Friday’s news could have far-reaching national impact. There are more than 150,000 convenience stores in the U.S., serving about 160 million customers a day, according to the association.
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