Mar 7, 2011 8:21 PM by Matt Stafford

E-cigarettes available to kids? Maybe not for long

For years lawmakers have been looking for ways to keep cigarettes out of the hands of kids; today, its electronic cigarettes. The problem is, there has been no age-limit to use the product in Colorado; but the state legislature is on the verge of changing that.

"I sell at least two of these (e-cigarettes) a week, the full kit, then I sell refills to regular customers everyday," Erin McCay, a sales clerk at a Smoker Friendly store in Colorado Springs. He says e-cigarettes have been gaining popularity over the last couple of years.

They've been gaining enough popularity to get the attention of a Colorado task force on youth tobacco use this past summer, and legislators got some interesting information.

"Electronic cigarettes were not prohibited in terms of sale to minors, and that access to those could be available to minors," explains Rep. Ken Summers, a Republican from House District 22. So Representative Summers is trying to pass House Bill 1016 -- labeling the e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, even though there's no tobacco in them -- in an effort to keep them out of the hands of kids.

Checking in with some of the local school districts to see if they've noticed a problem, districts 2, 11, and 20 all say they haven't seen any problems yet with kids having e-cigarettes in their schools.

At Smoker Friendly you have to be 18 to even come inside, but McCay says kids are still getting e-cigarettes somewhere.

"Some kids are getting a hold of this, even if maybe their parents are buying it for them," says McCay. "I think it's because other stores are selling it to minors."

"Kids have more of a curiosity about these types of products," says Dana Dzwonkowski, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. "Children who experiment with e-cigarettes will sort of use that as a gateway to start experimenting with actual cigarettes."

The American Cancer Society is happy legislators are working on age restrictions, but they wish the bill would do more to take them off the shelves until more studies into their long term effects can be performed.

McCay wouldn't want to go that far, he knows a lot of people who use the e-cigarettes -- many to quit smoking -- but he still doesn't think they should be in the hands of kids.

"Nicotine is an addictive drug, and I think you should be an adult to even try it," says McCay, so he's in favor of the bill as it is, with just an age restriction.


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