DES MOINES | Critics who say a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors doesn’t go far enough said they’ll take another stab at the measure as it moves to the House floor for a vote.
House File 2019 creates new classifications for “alternative nicotine products” and “vapor products,” the former being those that contain nicotine and that would be banned for sale to people under the age of 18 in the state.
An e-cigarette — sometimes called a smokeless cigarette — uses an electronic system to heat a liquid containing nicotine into a vapor that the user inhales. Vapor products as defined in the bill do much the same, except they don’t contain the nicotine.
The House file passed a committee by a 22-1 margin earlier this week, but lawmakers opposed to the measure say they’ll be able to change some minds before the floor vote.
“No one is against banning the nicotine products,” said state Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids. “But what the bill calls ‘vapor products’ have flavors like cherry and grape. It’s clearly aimed at kids.”
Olson said the problem with the vapor products boils down to social norming to smoke. He argues that if children think it’s socially acceptable to use the vapor cigarettes when they are young, the transition to using nicotine e-cigs wouldn’t be hard to make.
“Plus, how are you going to enforce it?” he asked. “How is a police officer going to know if a minor is using the nicotine one or the other type?”
Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Okoboji, who voted for the bill in subcommittee, said although the state has a role in regulating drugs, it doesn’t in all cases.
“We can’t get to the point where we’re being a parent to all these kids,” Smith said. “My intention with this bill is to do everything we can to get those with nicotine vapor out of the hands of the youth. It’s an addictive drug, and it needs to be out of their hands.”
The bill has support from many in the tobacco and business industries, including Altria, which is the parent company of Phillip Morris USA and Reynolds American, the parent of RJ Reynolds.
The American Cancer Society Action Network and the Iowa Counties Public Health Association are among those against it.
State Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, said both Democrats and Republicans will vote for tighter restrictions.
“I think it’s not going to come down on party lines,” he said. “This is something that has the interest of a lot of people.”