State Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) wants the commonwealth to become the 21st state to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.
E-cigarettes have been marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests they could be a gateway to regular cigarette use.
The study showed 160,000 teens nationwide who never smoked cigarettes before used electronic cigarettes in 2012.
The devices are battery-powered and provide users with doses of nicotine and other additives in an aerosol.
“Since it does have a nicotine product to it, we felt it was very important to treat it the same way you treat regular cigarettes, regular tobacco products, so that we don’t worry about an addiction issue with those folks under age 18,” Solobay said.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes but plans to extend its jurisdiction over tobacco products to e-cigarettes.
The CDC study showed more than 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide had tried e-cigarettes at some point in their lives.
Solobay said the study’s results did not surprise him.
“Because of the makeup of the product we figured that, knowing it was kind of a novelty type item, that it’s just natural for, especially sometimes for kids to kind of want to experiment or try other things,” Solobay said.
The devices go for about $60 for a starter pack and range from $10 to $15 after, but the e-cigarette companies say the cigarettes last from 30-40 times longer than regular cigarettes, which have a retail price of $6 a pack.
They come in different flavors like pina colada, vanilla and java, which Solobay said could be one of the reasons minors are so attracted to them.
“I think it’s because they’re not recognizing it as a tobacco product, and they think that they can have maybe that same feel, or again, maybe it’s the flavors, it might be the flavors that are pulling them in towards this as something kind of a neat thing to try or do and not thinking they’re getting any of the harmful effects,” Solobay said.
According to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, 20 states have passed legislation banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and three states, including Pennsylvania, have pending legislation.