Oregon lawmakers have disagreements about all sorts of things, but Democrats and Republicans alike have agreed to make it illegal to sell electronic cigarettes and their components to minors. The measure, House Bill 2546, passed both houses with substantial margins and now awaits a vote by the House of Representatives on an amendment made in the Senate.
It’s about time.
E-cigarettes are relatively new on the smoking scene. They’ve been available in this country for less than 10 years, and the research on their safety so far has produced mixed results. Supporters say they’re safe, but questions about such things as the presence and concentration of formaldehyde in the vapor remain. Nicotine, of course, is addictive.
To date, 41 states have approved bills designed to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of children.
There’s reason to be concerned. While the use of conventional cigarettes by Oregon high school students has fallen dramatically in recent years, the use of e-cigarettes by teens is increasing faster in this state than elsewhere. Two years ago, more than 5 percent of 11th-graders were using e-cigarettes, up from 1.8 percent two years before that.
Oregon’s measure goes beyond kids, however.
In addition to making it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors, it would treat e-cigarettes just like conventional cigarettes in terms of where they could be used. Vaping at work would not be allowed, and e-cigarettes would be banned at bars and restaurants and wherever conventional cigarettes are now banned.
All that makes sense. Had Americans known about the health threat posed by conventional cigarettes, they may never have become legal. It doesn’t make sense to repeat the pattern by allowing the unfettered use of e-cigarettes, particularly by children, until questions about them have been answered.