No ifs, ands or butts

Oregon Legislature should act quickly to ban e-cigarette sales to minors

This one should be easy. No legislative bickering, no political posturing, no partisan gridlock.

When it meets in February, Oregon's Legislature should ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Legislators need to do it quickly, make it unanimous and add an emergency clause so the ban can take effect quickly.

Other issues about taxation and regulation of e-cigarettes for adults may require more research and debate. They must be kept separate from this legislation, which Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, plans to introduce. Even tobacco companies are on board, according to The Oregonian.

E-cigarettes, also called personal vaporizers or electronic nicotine delivery systems, don't burn tobacco, and therefore don't fall under cigarette regulations. They can be helpful for smokers trying to cut back or quit, and they don't produce dangerous second-hand smoke.

On the flip side, though, most e-cigarettes vaporize nicotine and can lead to addiction, making them particularly dangerous to children. And they're being enhanced with bubble gum, chocolate and gummy-bear flavors that appeal to youngsters.

From 2011 to 2012, e-cigarette use nationwide by middle and high schoolers nearly doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said 1.78 million middle and high school students had tried e-cigarettes. In high schools, the percentage of users went from 5 percent to 10 percent in just one year.

In Oregon, the 2013 Healthy Teens Survey showed 5.2 percent of 11th-graders and 1.8 percent of 8th-graders said they had used an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days, according to The Oregonian, up from 1.8 percent and 1.3 percent respectively in the 2011 survey.

Those numbers suggest there's no time to wait, as e-cigarette use by youngsters appears to be climbing fast.

At the national level, the Food and Drug Administration has been expected to release regulations, but serious questions remain. Experts say e-cigarettes have helped many people quit smoking, yet their health effects are not well understood. Lobbying by manufacturers and health officials has been intense.

For the Oregon Legislature, however, one decision is clear. Whatever the long-term decisions for taxation and sales to adults, sales to minors should be stopped now.


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