ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced Monday, Feb. 10 that his Field Enforcement Division is taking a first-in-the-nation approach to prohibiting the sale of certain electronic smoking devices (ESDs) marketed towards kids.

“Today, in addition to the FDA’s prohibition of flavored e-cigarette cartridges, I have directed our enforcement agents to take more aggressive action by prohibiting the sale of disposable ESDs with flavors other than tobacco or menthol,” Franchot said in a statement. “As the state’s tobacco regulator, it’s my legal and moral responsibility to protect consumers, especially children, from the hazardous substances contained in these unauthorized products.”

Last October, the comptroller created the e-facts Task Force on Electronic Smoking Devices to learn more about the industry and to consider what regulatory and legislative action should be taken. The task force has met three times and will be holding its final session on Feb. 17 to weigh recommendations, according to a news release from Franchot’s office.

“In recent months, we’ve heard troubling reports of health-related issues, including deaths, that have been directly attributable to the use of ESDs,” Franchot said. “At the same time, the use of ESDs among teens has skyrocketed. I will not stand idly by letting kids get addicted to nicotine and hurt by these unregulated products that are marketed directly towards them.”

Last month, the FDA announced enforcement actions against “illegally marketed” ESD products, particularly, “flavored, cartridge-based [ESD] product[s],” which took effect on Feb. 6, the release states.

However, flavored disposable e-cigarettes, which are growing in popularity among youngsters, are not covered under the FDA prohibition — a loophole that precipitated the comptroller’s announcement, according to the release.

The Field Enforcement Division will prioritize its enforcement actions toward unauthorized disposable products most widely used by children – those bearing names such as Strawberry Hard Candy, Pineapple Lemonade, Mango Bomb, Berry Gelato, Lush Ice and O.M.G., the release states.

“The federal flavor ban left a gaping hole for disposable flavored vape products,” said Kathleen Hoke, a University of Maryland Law School professor and director of the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy, in a statement. “I am happy to know Comptroller Franchot is putting children first by closing that gap.”

The Field Enforcement Division reportedly notified industry leaders to make them aware of this state policy change. In addition, the agency posted an informational bulletin about the targeted enforcement on the comptroller’s website.

As the state’s tobacco regulator, the comptroller issues licenses to wholesalers and retailers of tobacco products and ESDs. If those licenses are deceptively, fraudulently or unlawfully used, the comptroller can suspend or revoke those licenses or assess additional penalties, the release states.

Agents from the Field Enforcement Division will immediately begin license checks and product inspections to ensure compliance.

“As a parent of two teenagers whose family has been directly impacted by the vaping epidemic, I applaud the Comptroller’s enforcement actions against those ESD products that are most commonly used by kids,” said John Brennan, an Anne Arundel County resident and a member of the e-facts Task Force. “Disposable ESDs give children a relatively inexpensive and easily accessible path toward nicotine addiction. Keeping unregulated highly addictive ESDs out of the hands of our children is a step in the right direction.”

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