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September 8, 2013

Legislation would ban sale to minors

It’s against the law for minors to buy and use tobacco products in Massachusetts, and if new legislation is passed, electronic cigarettes will be snuffed out for them, too.

Battery operated electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, consist of a cartridge that contains liquid, which is then vaporized and inhaled by the user. In most Massachusetts cities and towns, it’s legal for anyone to purchase these smoke-free products as an alternative to paper cigarettes.

But, State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Boston, thinks that’s a bad idea, and last month filed a bill to make e-cigarettes inaccessible to minors. In addition, the legislation would ban the use of e-cigarettes in all locations where smoking is prohibited, including workplaces and public school grounds.

“Most people assume that our laws cover that issue,” Sanchez, of Jamaica Plain, said in regards to sales to minors. “That is why we are trying to get at it. How do we make sure we keep nicotine, in any forms, and nicotine delivery, out of the hands of minors?”

Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methen, supports the proposal, calling it “common sense legislation.”

“Just like regular cigarettes, electronic cigarettes contain nicotine,” she said. “Therefore, there should be guidelines in place to make sure that we are not allowing sales to minors.”

The health effects of using e-cigarettes remains unclear. Further testing is needed to identify the levels of nicotine each brand of electronic cigarette contains, according to Tami Gouveia, executive director of Tobacco Free Massachusetts, as well as to determine the potential health risks.

“We don’t know what the public health impacts are,” Gouveia said, adding there are also no consumer protections.

“The medical community seems to agree that most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other carcinogens and the FDA has issued warnings about the health hazards associated with e-cigarettes,” said Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen.

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