E-cigarette age limit gains support


The state Senate has passed a measure that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes — known as e-cigarettes — to anyone under the age of 18.

"I just think it's good practice that people under a certain age can't buy them," said Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township.

The bill is in the House but hadn't been assigned to a committee as of Wednesday.

Locally: Cori Strathmeyer, director of Healthy Living, YMCA of York County, said she's seen vaping increase in popularity with young people due in part to the fact that the vaping liquid comes in appealing flavors, such as bubble gum.

"Like years ago, you were cool if you smoked Camels. Now you're cool if you vape," she said. "I'm surprised by how many (teens) I've seen around using them (e-cigarettes)."

Eat, Play, Breathe York, a local group championing healthy initiatives, is creating a campaign to raise awareness about the potential dangers of picking up the e-cigarette habit, but without a law that dictates age restrictions for users, it makes raising awareness among that group more difficult, Strathmeyer said.

The smokeless e-cigarette, when inhaled, delivers flavored liquid with varying levels of nicotine.

Unregulated: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate the relatively new nicotine-delivery system, leaving states and municipalities to create their own laws.

Some York-area stores that sell e-cigarettes, such as LifeSmoke Vapors in Springettsbury Township, self-regulate and forbid the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Some of the possible regulatory measures, which were introduced last year, include reviewing new tobacco products for approval by the FDA, prohibiting the sale of such products to minors and requiring health warning labels on certain products.

The FDA currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco.

Because of the lack of oversight and health studies, some people believe e-cigarettes don't have any negative effects, some organizations have argued.

"It's appealing because there doesn't seem to be a risk to it," Strathmeyer said.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society said in a statement that e-cigarettes may be a good way for smokers to kick the habit, but the habit could serve as a gateway for youth to pick up smoking.

"We want to nip this in the bud before it becomes a big issue," Strathmeyer said.

She added that she also would like to see e-cigarettes subject to the state's cigarette tax.

Support: State Reps. Keith Gillespie, R- Hellam Township, and Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said they would vote for the bill once it makes its way to the House floor.

Schreiber also threw his support behind two House bills that would make it illegal for minors to purchase e- cigarettes.

"Whether we take up the Senate bill or the House bills is irrelevant to me," he said. "We just need to get it passed."

A 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 13.4 percent of 22,000 high school-aged students surveyed said they've used an e-cigar-ette, compared to 9.2 percent who said they've used tobacco cigarettes.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.