Dover, DE – Saying he is alarmed by the recent spike in popularity of electronic cigarettes among middle school and high school students, Governor Markell today signed legislation to make it illegal to sell the product to anyone under age 18. House Bill 241, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne) and Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere), classifies e –cigarettes as a tobacco substitute and prohibits minors from purchasing or receiving such tobacco substitutes, intending to treat them the same as traditional tobacco products.
“Smoking is the leading cause of death in Delaware, so it is a serious issue when we see an increasing number of youth using a product that not only looks similar to traditional cigarettes, but also includes the very substance that has caused millions of Americans to become addicted to them,” said Governor Markell. “We know the CDC has reported that 76 percent of e-cigarette users also report conventional cigarette smoking and nicotine itself poses dangers to young people. Common sense dictates that we act now because we don’t take risks with our children’s health.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “e-cigarette experimentation and recent use doubled among U.S. middle and high school students during 2011–2012, resulting in an estimated 1.78 million students having ever used e-cigarettes as of 2012.” In releasing its findings, the CDC emphasized that “given the rapid increase in use and youths’ susceptibility to social and environmental influences to use tobacco, developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youths is critical.”
“Up until today, it was legal for a 14-year-old to walk into a neighborhood store or gas station and buy an e-cigarette,” said Rep. Hudson. “The unregulated product is being specifically marketed to minors. Some companies sell the vapor device with flavors of liquid nicotine in the cartridge, further appealing to our youth. Flavors include cotton candy, bubble gum and fruit loops. Until the FDA regulates the levels of nicotine – which is a highly addictive product – and other additives, minors should be prohibited from this practice of ‘vaping.’ I commend the governor for signing this important bill to protect our youth.”
The rise in e-cigarette use among young people has coincided with more marketing geared toward them, as recently reported in the journal Pediatrics. For young people from ages 12 to 17, advertising exposure grew 256 percent between 2011 and 2013.
“There’s a tendency among some young people to think that using e-cigarettes makes them cool and helps them stand out from the crowd, and before they know it, they’re addicted to nicotine,” said Sen. Blevins. “We need this law to keep them from getting addicted to these products at an early age.”
The CDC Director of the Office of Smoking and Health has also noted concerns about the impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development, independent of other substances found in traditional or electronic cigarettes.
The CDC defines electronic cigarettes as battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol. Depending on the brand, e-cigarette cartridges typically contain nicotine, a component to produce the aerosol, flavorings, and, sometimes, harmful substances such as irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens.
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