Tessa Muggeridge – Feb. 25, 2011 12:00 AM
Cronkite News Service
A state senator wants to keep electronic cigarettes out of kids’ hands by making it a petty offense for merchants to sell them to minors and for minors to buy them.
“If we’re going to say minors can’t buy regular cigarettes, it doesn’t seem valid to say they can have access to electronic cigarettes,” said Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler. “Hopefully a few less young people will suffer nicotine addictions with this ban.”
The so-called e-cigarettes are battery-powered plastic and metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution that users inhale as a mist. They’re available in hundreds of flavors, including cherry, chocolate and beer, as well as the flavors of popular cigarette brands.
Though companies often claim they don’t sell to buyers younger than 18 or that the e-cigarettes are used to help smokers quit, Arizona youth can legally purchase them even though they can’t buy tobacco products.
Senate Bill 1280 won preliminary approval this week from the Senate Committee of the Whole, setting up a final vote that would send it to the House. The penalty for a petty offense is a fine up to $300.
Supporters of the bill say the fruity or candy flavors are one reason why e-cigarettes are popular among young people.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, whose office pushed for a ban and registered its support for the bill, said e-cigarettes can lead children into addiction.
“It seems like another way to get young people addicted to nicotine is by using these flavors to entice them to use these products,” Horne said.
David Goerlitz, president of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, which is based near Atlanta, said the industry supports banning e-cigarettes for minors.
“Businesses that sell to kids, shame on them,” he said. “They should lose their license and be fined severely, just like you would for tobacco. Any law that prevails for tobacco should also prevail for electronic cigarettes.”
James Sanders, who owns A-Z Smoke Free, an electronic-cigarette business run online and out of his Goodyear home, said he doesn’t encourage nicotine use by minors in any form.
His website requires patrons to check a box saying they’re 18 before they make a purchase.
“If they’re online and they’re using a credit card and they say they’re 18, I would like to trust that they are,” Sanders said.
When customers make purchases at his home, Sanders said he asks them for ID if they appear to be younger than 18, though most of his patrons are older people who choose e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking.