People who want to quit smoking have credited e-cigarettes with helping them kick the habit. But vaping is also attracting a new group of users — teenagers.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would crack down on retailers who sell vaping products to minors.
Health officials and concerned parents told a recent House committee hearing how easy it is for kids to get their hands on e-cigarettes.
State Rep. Gerry Pollett says he knows this first hand. “I have a teenage son,” says Pollett. “Last year we went around and we had no problem buying in store after store, e-cigarettes, refillable or single use.”
Pollett is sponsoring a bill to restrict kids under age 18 from buying vaping products. He points to a recent state report that showed one in five 10th-graders had used e-cigarettes in the past month. That compares to just 8 percent smoking, down from about 15 percent in 2002.
“This is an astonishing epidemic of addiction,” he said. “Just when we thought we had reduced the addiction to cigarettes, we have a new generation being addicted to e-cigarettes and nicotine.”
Pollett’s bill would also create licensing requirements on distributors and retailers. It would tax e-cigarettes like tobacco products — at 95 percent.
Stu Halson, a lobbyist with the Washington Vape Association, says he quit smoking a year ago when he started vaping.
“I smoked for 42 years. Many of you saw me standing out in the rain doing that,” he said.
And now he’s cutting back his nicotine intake from vaping.
“I started off at 12 mg of nicotine,” he said. “Now I’m down at 6 mg.”
Halson says he supports the bill’s intent to prevent underage vaping. But he worries the excise tax would discourage other smokers from quitting. Others say the bill could create a black market for untaxed vaping products.