Bill that bans the sale of e-cigarettes to minors wins House approval

Columbia Daily Tribune 

By Rudi Keller

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

View Original Story 

A bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and other products with nicotine to people younger than 18 won overwhelming House approval Monday despite concerns from some lawmakers that heavier restrictions and taxation are needed.The 127-19 vote sent the bill, sponsored by Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, to Gov. Jay Nixon. Strong majorities in both parties supported the bill.

The bill expands the ban on tobacco sales to people younger than 18 to e-cigarettes and similar devices, which deliver a nicotine-rich vapor to users, and nicotine patches and gum, products developed to help people quit smoking.

It exempts both types of products from other regulation and taxes imposed on tobacco. Those restrictions include requirements to keep products behind the sales counter and a 10 percent tax on non-cigarette tobacco products.

Rowden defended it during debate as a reasonable approach that doesn’t preclude stricter rules in the future. Foes of the bill argued that the e-cigarettes should be treated as a dangerous tool drawing people into nicotine addiction.

“I would say it is a first step but it is a good step based on what we know today,” Rowden said.

Tobacco products have come under increasingly strict regulation since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report named cigarettes as a cause of lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. Cigarette advertising disappeared from television a few years later, but it took far longer to ban sports sponsorships, cartoon character trademarks and marketing designed to make tobacco sexy.

Vapor cigarettes are marketed in suggestive television and print ads, and some brands have candy flavors. That should make people wary of them, said Rep. Jill Schupp, D- Creve Coeur.

“These are nicotine products, and we don’t know the dangers associated with them yet,” she said.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced the first set of rules it intends to impose on e-cigarettes, including requirements that manufacturers disclose the chemicals that are being consumed along with nicotine.

The products would carry a warning about possible nicotine addiction.

Further regulation would come later after the agency has basic information, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg wrote in a letter published yesterday in The New York Times.

Reps. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, and Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, joined Rowden in favor of the bill. Rep. John Wright, D-Rocheport, voted against it.

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