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Bill calling for child-proof packaging of liquid nicotine advances in House

Legislation to protect children from accidentally ingesting liquid nicotine that's used in electronic cigarettes has advanced in the House.

Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade passed the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) in March, by a voice vote on Thursday.

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The bill, which was also introduced in the Senate in January by Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson'Hamilton' star aims to educate displaced Puerto Ricans about Florida voter ID laws Trump: ‘Maximum effort’ taking place in Hurricane Michael recovery efforts The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia MORE (D-Fla.), will now move to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee for discussion and a vote.

The legislation directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a rule that would require liquid nicotine containers to be designed with special packaging that is difficult for children under the age of five years to open or break.

“While I’m well aware of the FDA’s intent to take regulatory action regarding electronic cigarettes at some point in the future, the purpose of this draft measure is not meant to create a jurisdictional fight between government agencies or constrain the FDA from any future action in this area,” Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in prepared remarks. “It is simply meant to protect children now.”

In November, poison control centers reported that 2014 calls over e-cigarettes had nearly doubled from the 1,543 exposures reported in 2013, with the majority of cases involving children younger than six. And in December, a toddler in upstate New York reportedly died after ingesting liquid nicotine.  

Upton called the reported poisonings an immediate public health concern.

“Any additional delay on our part to require child-proof packaging for this lethal substance would be done at the peril of our nation’s children,” he said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) applauded the subcommittee for its efforts to move the bill forward.

“Liquid nicotine can poison children and comes in a variety of bright colors and in flavors like cotton candy and gummy bear,” AAP President Sandra Hassink said in a news release. "It is no surprise that it has found its way into the hands of children."

The FDA has yet to finalize its deeming rule, which would regulate the sale and packaging of e-cigarettes and cigars for the first time, but the AAP said the bill would preserve the agency’s authority to regulate child-resistant packaging of tobacco products.