Electronic Cigarette Ban For Minors Looming

SPOKANE, Wash. - A ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors goes into effect Thursday. eCigarette vendors will be fined if they?re caught selling to those 17 and under and minors will be fined if they?re caught smoking one.

The ban will be effective in the City of Spokane, Spokane Valley and unincorporated Spokane County. It came from the efforts of the Spokane Regional Heath District and local jurisdictions to protect youth from the harmful effects of nicotine.

Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) Health Specialist Julie Scholer says from what they?ve observed the eCigarettes are very popular among both adults and minors.

?Currently there?s no legislation restricting an age, so a 4-year-old could have gone in and bought one, not that they?d necessarily be sold one,? Scholer said. ?There?s no law protecting minors from the nicotine in these.?

The eCigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes and deliver nicotine in the form of a vapor that is inhaled. Flavors like cherry, mango and Marlboro are also sold alongside the liquid nicotine, which Scholer says could be attractive to minors but aren?t necessarily marketed to them.

?We don?t know exactly what?s in them, they can put labels on them, but there?s no agency overseeing what goes into them,? Scholer said.

Though vendors tout the electronic cigarettes as a way to help consumers quit smoking regular cigarettes, which can contain chemicals and other harmful additives, the eCigarette devices and the liquid nicotine and flavors are not FDA approved as a smoking cessation device.

Before the ban was approved, the SRHD?s Tobacco Prevention and Control program conducted a special emphasis project to find out if distributors were selling electronic cigarettes to minors, which was legal at the time.

Teen operatives were successful in buying the devices over 90 percent of the time. The SRHD?s project showed them that there was a significant problem with teens having access to nicotine and devices that deliver them.

The ban, approved in February, takes effect at midnight on March 31st and includes the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and the use of them by minors.

?The punishment is that they could receive a $50 fine, distributors that sell them could face a $250 fine,? Scholer said.

Questions about the ban or eCigarettes can be answered through the SRHD at 509-324-1553.