E Cigarettes

Deb Frazier, manager of Totally Vapor, a kiosk in Southern Hills Mall that sells electronic cigarettes, shows several models in August 2012. Nebraska lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban minors from buying and using the products.

Laura Wehde, Sioux City Journal file

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa | Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is urging state lawmakers to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors.

During a Monday news conference, Miller also called for adding e-cigarettes to products covered by the state’s Smoke-free Air Act and to tax them higher than the standard state sales tax rate.

“Over the past several years, e-cigarettes have developed technologically, and they have grown quickly in popularity,” Miller said of the battery-operated products that heat liquid nicotine -- derived from tobacco plants -- into a vapor that the user inhales. “Our state laws, regulations and policies don’t address these products, and I think it’s time for the legislature to begin the conversation.”

Miller said he was not proposing to ban e-cigarette products, but he does want state legislators to halt their sales to minors under the age of 18 who currently cannot legally purchase tobacco products in Iowa. Unlike traditional tobacco products, the attorney general said there are no state or federal age restrictions that prevent children from buying or using e-cigarettes.

Miller said Iowa’s Smoke-free Air Act, enacted in 2008, does not address the new technology. He said officials in Arkansas, New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah have included e-cigarettes in their indoor smoking bans.

Also, he noted that sales of e-cigarettes are subject to the state’s sales tax, while a pack of 20 traditional cigarettes is taxed at $1.36, a package of 25 at $1.70 and tobacco products are taxed at 50 percent of wholesale.

“The Legislature first needs to define e-cigarettes and then determine whether the current 6 percent sales tax rate is appropriate,” Miller said. In 2010, Minnesota changed its definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes and subjected them to the state’s tobacco products tax.

Miller previously called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and to restrict their ingredients and advertising.

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