OGDEN — Teen use of electronic cigarettes in Weber and Morgan Counties is on the decline, and public health workers hope to claim at least some of the credit for that trend.
A 2015 report on youth e-cigarette use, compiled by the Utah Department of Health, indicates that roughly 15 percent of teens in Weber and Morgan Counties use e-cigarettes.
But Bryce Sherwood, Health Promotions supervisor for the Weber-Morgan Health Department said his two-county area has since seen a 5 percent drop in youth vaping. In late October 2014, the Weber-Morgan Health Department began regulating e-cigarette sales and e-liquid production.
“We can’t necessarily say it’s because of our local regulation, but we think it influenced it for sure,” Sherwood said, also crediting the department’s outreach efforts. “We’ve gone to school districts and talked to administrators and community groups. We’ve really been very active in educating people about e-cigarettes and e-liquid manufacturing.”
On Monday, the Weber-Morgan Health Board approved a new e-liquid manufacturing regulation that officially separates oversight of e-liquid production from the retail licensing end of the business, which falls to the State Tax Commission since the passage of House Bill 415 in 2015.
That legislation licensed e-cigarette sales in much the same way as tobacco products and also gave the Health Department oversight of e-liquid quality, nicotine content, packaging and labeling. Sales to anyone under the age of 19 is prohibited.
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According to Lori Buttars, spokeswoman for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, eight businesses in Weber County manufacture their own e-liquid. Manufacturing refers to mixing, re-packaging and re-sizing of the product. The regulation bans e-liquid production “on foot, at events or from vehicles.”
In the past year, Buttars said the Department has issued five warnings and shut down one business for not having a retail license.
“E-liquids need to be regulated because they contain nicotine, which can be poisonous. We need to know how much is in there,” Michela Gladwell, Weber-Morgan’s environmental health director said by phone Tuesday.
The fragrant substances often contain propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavorings, which Gladwell said also need to be monitored to make sure they qualify as food grade or are FDA-approved.
Nicotine poisoning in kids under 6 years old increased 1,500 percent from 2013 to 2015, according to a 2016 report cited by CNN.
The regulation also stipulates sanitation and safety requirements, along with maintenance of key records to track batch e-liquid production in case of problems.
The Weber-Morgan regulation charges $100 for a first-time manufacturing permit that must be renewed annually. The state retail license costs $30 and lasts three years.
But local health officials remain the watchdogs to monitor manufacturing processes as well as the sale of such products to anyone under the age of 19. The Weber-Morgan Health Department routinely inspects manufacturing facilities and also conducts quarterly buys of the product using undercover minors.
Sherwood views that oversight as a valuable tool in protecting the public.
“That was kind of the intent behind our local regulation and the state law, that we would have legitimate businesses doing this and not someone on the corner or in their own home. We wanted the businesses to go through the right regulations and have the right permits as required,” Sherwood said.