Uptown Greenville, NC


Purilum Joint Venture Sets Standard for E-liquids

By Michael Abramowitz

The Daily Reflector

While public health officials consolidate their opposition to the use of electronic cigarettes in Pitt County, the future of the e-cigarette flavoring industry firmly planted itself in Greenville last week.

With city and county officials on hand to welcome them, officials with Purilum cut the ribbon Wednesday on a new 18,000-square-foot facility at 967 Woodridge Park Road for the development, manufacture and distribution of the liquid contents that will supply major manufacturers of e-cig vaporizing machines.

Purilum, a joint venture with Alliance One Specialty Products and IOTO, USA, has 11 employees at the site and is committed to having at least 21 by the end of the year, spokesman Will Daugherty of Evolve Inc. said. The move was funded in part by a $210,000 grant from the N.C. Commerce Department.

“We want to thank you for becoming a new member of our family; you’ll find yourself in good company,” Mayor Allen Thomas said during remarks at the opening ceremony. “There is a long history of agricultural and tobacco products in eastern North Carolina. Greenville is known as the city of medicine and innovation. You fit perfectly into that model.”

With six decades of combined technical experience developing flavors, Purilum “flavorists” use domestic tobaccos to create the contents of its filling and e-liquid bottling services for the e-cigarette industry. Product testing by an independent toxicologist for safety and purity allows Purilum to meet quality and capacity demands for the future of flavoring, company officials said. Two of Purilum’s new team members, Dileep Vezzu and Roberta Veluci, are Ph.D. graduates in chemical engineering from East Carolina University.

“Purilum strives to stand at the forefront of quality, capacity and flavor experience in the e-cigarette and e-liquid industry,” company President Bianca Iodice said. “This commitment is part of Purilum’s role as the future of flavor.”

Simultaneous with the company’s arrival in Greenville, the Pitt County Board of Health is including e-cigarettes in its efforts to ban tobacco use in county-owned spaces, both indoors and outdoors. The board unanimously passed a resolution to include all county and municipal parks in its ban. It is awaiting resolutions from individual municipalities on the issue but can act independently.

“I’ve talked with one mayor who shared our concern that e-cigarettes give a very bad impression to children playing in parks, who don’t need to see people puffing on anything, whether a normal cigarette or an electronic one,” Health Department Director Dr. John Morrow said at last week’s board meeting.

Beyond his concerns about impressionable youth, Morrow has cited World Health Organization findings that some of the ingredients found in e-liquids are considered toxic and/or carcinogenic, but the results are incomplete on other ingredients. In a 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden noted the rise, saying, “There is still a lot we don’t know about these products.”

A Purilum spokesman responded to the concerns surrounding e-liquids and vapors at Wednesday’s event. He said the company will not market or produce flavorings found to be attractive to young people.

“While the industry sorts out whether they are comfortable with e-liquids and their safety, the best thing for this company to do is supercede the regulations currently being considered and test at all production stages to be sure that our product does not contain any contaminants or carginogens that likely would be harmful to people,” Daugherty said.

While public health and enforcement officials are either waiting for federal and state regulatory agencies to make clear decisions about e-cigarette use or making independent decisions on the local level, it is universally acknowledged that e-cigarette use is rapidly increasing among adults and minors.

The 2013 N.C. Youth Tobacco Survey, released Friday by the state Department of Health and Human Services, shows the lowest teen cigarette smoking rates ever recorded, along with a significant increase in teen use of certain non-cigarette tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, department officials said.

Cigarette smoking among North Carolina middle school students dropped 40 percent from 2011 to 2013, falling from 4.2 percent to 2.5 percent. Among high school students, the drop was from 15.5 percent to 13.5 percent.

However, use of electronic cigarettes among North Carolina high school students jumped by 352 percent, from 1.7 percent in 2011 to 7.7 percent in 2013. Ten percent of high school students said they are considering using electronic cigarettes in the next year, and 10.6 percent of high school students are considering hookah use in the next year.

Dr. Ruth Petersen, chief of the DHHS’ chronic disease and injury section, celebrated the decline in cigarette smoking but said she is concerned about nicotine exposure in non-cigarette products.

“Nicotine in these tobacco products is highly addictive, and there is evidence that using nicotine during adolescence may harm brain development,” Peterson said. “It is clear that young people do not understand the addictive nature or the potential harms of these products,” she said.

For results from the most recent N.C. DHHS Youth Tobacco Survey, and results from previous years, visit online at http://www.tobaccopreventionandcontrol.ncdhhs.gov/data/yts/index.htm.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.