The Norman Transcript

March 4, 2014

Legislation to ban underage use of e-cigarette ready for House vote

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The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and set a penalty for such sales is available for a vote on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 2904, by state Rep. Pat Ownbey and state Sen. Frank Simpson, would modify a current law banning the use of underage tobacco to include nicotine-delivery devices such as e-cigarettes. The legislation would exempt U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved tobacco cessation products.

“I think there is a general consensus that e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices should not be used by minors,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “We have heard from national experts who have said that nicotine does affect the mind, particularly young minds, and so there is good reason to limit it to adults. Our legislation extends our current tobacco laws that deal with minors to e-cigarette devices.”

The legislation limits taxation to the current system of sales tax, despite claims by tobacco lobbyists and other opponents that the bill would raise taxes on e-cigs, Ownbey said.

“Because the bill redefines nicotine-delivery devices, the fear is that it will allow them to be taxed in the same way as other tobacco products,” Ownbey said. “I have included language to address that concern.”

The FDA has ruled that e-cigarettes and vapor products will be regulated as tobacco unless the company is making a health claim.

“E-cigarettes and vapor advocates chose not to be classified as cessation devices,” Ownbey said. “For that reason, I think it is fair to label them as tobacco products. While it is true that nicotine can be obtained from other materials, it is by and large obtained from tobacco, and I have not yet heard of other sources being used.”

Nicotine is an alkaloid found in certain products, predominately tobacco. It is found in lower quantities in potatoes, eggplants, cauliflower, bell peppers and some teas.

“Tobacco companies have access to tobacco, I do not see them getting into the tomato business,” Ownbey said.

The reason that companies have chosen not to be defined as tobacco-cessation products is that brings them under further scrutiny from the FDA, Ownbey said.

In 2012, the e-cig market was estimated to be about $300 million. In 2013, it had grown to $1.8 billion, as reported by Wells Fargo. Three companies have 85 percent of the market.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of high school students who had ever used an e-cigarette more than doubled in one year from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012. In that same year, 1.78 million middle and high school students in the U.S. had tried e-cigarettes.

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