House votes to ban e-cig sales to minors
SALEM — The Oregon House overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday barring the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and prohibiting their use in bars, workplaces and other public spaces where cigarettes are also forbidden.
"E-cigarettes pose a significant health risk to individuals, especially young people, and when smoked indoors. We've been successful in decreasing the rates of use among teens, but teen use of e-cigarettes has risen, threatening that success," said Democratic Rep. Kathleen Taylor of Portland.
If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law, Oregonians under age 18 would not be able to purchase e-cigarettes, the same age restriction as for tobacco products. The legislation includes e-cigarettes in the state's Indoor Clean Air Act, requires e-cigarette products to be sold in child-resistant safety packaging and specifies e-cigarettes can't be used to smoke marijuana in public spaces or workplaces.
The National Institutes of Health's annual survey on drug use found that while teens have been eschewing tobacco smoking they are increasingly turning to e-cigarettes.
According to last year's Monitoring the Future survey, nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders said they'd used an e-cigarette in the last month. Just 4 percent reported using a traditional cigarette during the same period.
E-cigarettes are often seen as a safer alternative for regular smokers who can't or don't want to quit. They work by heating liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor, and contain fewer toxic substances than traditional cigarettes. But health officials have said they shouldn't be considered harmless and not much is known about long-term effects.
Rep. Jim Weidner, who voted "no" on in the measure in committee, said he's proposed amendments that would allow bars to apply for a permit to "vape" in their facility and to allow shoppers to test e-cigarette products at "vape shops" when they buy them.
"I figured people doing this would eventually stop smoking. It would start them vaping and slowly start the process to wean them off cigarettes," said Weidner, a Republican from Yamhill.
A total of 41 other states, including California, Florida, and New York, have already prohibited the sale of electronic cigarettes and vaping products to minors.
Supporters of the alternative smoking device say completely banning the product in public spaces could negate the incentive to even try e-cigarettes, which they say has been instrumental in helping smokers quit.
Brian Hentsch, co-owner of a vape store in Salem, said both his daughter and her husband were able to quit with the help of vapor devices. He has no problem with the age requirement, he said at a public hearing in February, but the bill's language is too broad and excessively restrictive.
"The enactment of this law will adversely affect many individuals that are trying to find alternatives to tobacco," Hentsch said.