Smoke or no smoke, Sen. Carolyn Allen doesn’t want to see electronic cigarettes in kids’ mouths.
Allen, a Scottsdale Republican, is sponsoring a bill that would have so-called e-cigarettes join regular cigarettes and other tobacco products that can’t be sold to or possessed by those under 18.
“Why would we encourage anybody to play with cigarettes,” Allen said. “Especially young people?”
S1053, which would make selling electronic cigarettes to minors a petty offense, won preliminary approval Jan. 28 from the Senate Committee of the Whole, setting up a floor vote that would send it to the House.
Electronic cigarettes are battery powered and deliver a nicotine mist that users inhale. Various brands offer flavors such as vanilla and cherry as well as tastes similar to popular cigarette brands.
While companies offering electronic cigarettes contend they don’t promote them for minors, Greg Stanton, director of legislative affairs for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, said the facts don’t support that claim.
“When you put the flavors on them it is pretty obvious that they are being marketed to minors,” he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year issued a warning against assuming that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to regular cigarettes, saying that a laboratory analysis found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals. The agency attempted to regulate the product as an unapproved drug-delivery device, which would subject electronic cigarettes to stricter controls than tobacco products.
But earlier this month a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled against the FDA’s efforts, which included blocking some shipments of the product from abroad, saying the agency could regulate electronic cigarettes only as a tobacco product. The FDA has yet to announce its next step.
Colby Bower, Arizona government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said his group hopes the FDA will decide to ban electronic cigarettes.
“There is no evidence that these products are safe for anybody,” he said.
The Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee endorsed the measure unanimously Jan. 19 despite a suggestion from Tim Vaske, the American Heart Association’s state director for government affairs, that lawmakers would legitimize the use of electronic cigarettes by restricting access.
“Electronic cigarettes should not be sold until the FDA has had a chance to investigate,” said Vaske, who added that his organization is neutral on the bill.
Ron MacDonald, a Scottsdale entrepreneur who has sold electronic cigarettes on the Internet since 2007, said in a telephone interview that he’d have no problem with a law against sales to minors. His Web site says “Must be 18 or older to purchase” at the very top.
“Personally, I just don’t think it’s right to sell nicotine to minors,” he said.
Gene Anderson, an employee of Smokefree Stix, which sells electronic cigarettes at a kiosk at Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, said his company requires young-looking shoppers to show identification. He turns away those who aren’t 18.
“We don’t want to encourage young people to be using any form of nicotine because of the addictive qualities of it,” he said.