E-cigarette debate lights up House. Bill barring sales to minors passes.

Columbia Daily Tribune

Friday, April 18, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill restricting the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, but not before the sponsor, Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, was questioned sharply about provisions protecting the product from other regulations.

On a vote of 129-19, the House sent Rowden’s bill to the Senate, which approved a nearly identical bill yesterday during its session. The bills would ban the sale to minors of devices that use a heating element to boil glycerin laced with nicotine, creating a vapor that is inhaled like cigarette smoke but creates no ash or strong odor.

The bill also includes a provision that the devices, also known as e-cigarettes, “shall not be taxed or otherwise regulated as tobacco products.” The language, which was not in the bill as filed by Rowden, was added by the House General Laws Committee when it sent the bill to the floor for debate.

“I want to know where this came from,” Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, asked Rowden during debate. “Where did this additional language that was not in the bill that was heard come from, Gentleman?”

“It came from my brain,” Rowden replied.

“From your brain and not from big and small tobacco lobbyists who are putting in this language in 26 other states around the country?” Schupp asked.

Rowden replied he was trying to restrict youth access and that if new information about the dangers of e-cigarettes becomes available or the Food and Drug Administration issues regulations restricting them like cigarettes, the provision could be changed by future lawmakers.

At other points in the debate, Rowden argued that because there is no tobacco in the glycerin, it is not a tobacco product. “The vote you are making today is that I don’t want these products in the hands of minors or I don’t care,” he said.

In the House vote, Reps. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, John Wright, D-Rocheport, and Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, all supported the bill. Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, voted against it.

In the Senate, where a bill by Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, passed 27-4, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, voted with the majority.

In an interview today, Rowden said he does not believe the provision would allow the use of the devices in locations where smoking is banned or impair the enforcement of other local restrictions on cigarettes. He also said Schupp’s attack on his bill was politically motivated to promote her Senate campaign.

“I don’t think you are dealing with someone who really honestly cares about what she is saying,” he said.

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