HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outlined legislation Wednesday that would to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to children in Connecticut.
Malloy said that while the use of the tobacco-less nicotine delivery systems has been touted as a way to help some adults stop smoking, it also has been shown to be gateway for children to start using tobacco.
"It mirrors in many ways what the smoking experience is," Malloy said. "So we want to make sure that minors are not being exposed to this."
The e-cigarettes replace tobacco by heating a nicotine-solution into a vapor that is inhaled. The practice, known as "vaping" has been increasing in popularity, with e-cigarette devices ranging in price from several dollars, to several thousand dollars.
They are sold with flavored nicotine solutions. Some mirror the taste of cigarettes, while others have flavors such as chocolate or gummy bear.
"It gives gummy bears a bad reputation if you ask me," Malloy said. "But in all seriousness ... providing flavors that if not specifically directed at children, would include children as a potential audience, I just think is wrong."
Thomas Kiklas, co-owner of Nicmaxx Electronic Cigarettes and co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, said the industry supports banning e-cigarette sales to minors. He said the association discourages companies from producing flavors such as "bubble gum" or others that would specifically entice kids, but said some flavoring is necessary to make the product attractive to adults.
"Without flavoring, there would be no reason for any consumer to use the product at all," he said.
The Food and Drug Administration plans to regulate e-cigarettes but has not yet issued proposed rules. For now, the agency simply states on its website that "e-cigarettes have not been fully studied so consumers currently don't know the potential risks of e-cigarettes," including how much nicotine or other chemicals are inhaled, or if they "may lead young people to try ... conventional cigarettes."
Dr. Alan Salner, an oncologist and director of the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital, supports the governor's proposal. He said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration need to take a closer look at the product.
"There simply isn't enough high-quality objective evidence yet, to know whether e-cigarettes are safe," he said.
Twenty-seven other states have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children.
The legislature's Committee on Children approved the governor's bill Tuesday. The proposed legislation calls for a tiered system of penalties for violations of the state's anti-tobacco laws, starting with a mandatory education program for first-time offenders.