In a little less than 24 hours, both the Iowa Senate and House have voted to ban the sale of all types of electronic cigarettes to minors, even if there’s no nicotine in the product. Possession of the devices would be a crime for minors, too, if the bill becomes law.
Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said marketers are targeting the under-18 crowd with fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes that don’t contain nicotine.
“I’ve actually seen a version that looks exactly like a cigarette,” Dotzler said. “…And I think the combination of having a flavored cigarette and being able to have that device and develop the behavior, even though there isn’t nicotine in it, is something that’s exceedingly dangerous.”
Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, said the blanket ban on all e-cigarettes for minors is crucial.
“If we only pass a ban on the nicotine varieties and not the non-nicotine varieties, then the law becomes an absolutely unenforceable shell,” Quirmbach said. “…You have a 10-year-old kid, puffin’ away on the street corner, the cops have no basis for stopping ’em. They have no probable cause. The kid could legally be puffin’ away.”
Dotzler said it’s important for state legislators to act, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recently-announced regulations don’t address the non-nicotine e-cigarettes being sold to minors.
“With the passage of this bill, we are going to make sure the message is loud and clear,” Dotzler said. “We don’t believe electronic cigarettes are safe.”
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, unsuccessfully argued legislators should tax and regulate e-cigarettes just like traditional cigarettes.
“Whether you are an adult or somebody 18 years of age or younger, these are bad for you and if you’re around somebody smoking them you’re going to be absorbing things like nicotine and heavy metals and toluene and benzene and formaldehyde,” Bolkcom said.
Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, said e-cigarettes should be regulated just like regular cigarettes — and banned from public spaces.
“I think if we are looking out for the health and safety of Iowans, this is a step in the wrong direction,” Lensing said. “What are we doing?”
Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, voted for the bill, but Feenstra argued it should have gone further.
“I think this bill is a good start. I guess I’m a bit perplexed,” Feenstra said. “I troubles me that we’re going through so much effort on e-cigarettes and yet we continue to allow smoking in casinos. Shame on us.”
The bill cleared both the House and Senate by wide margins. The bill passed the Senate Monday night on a 37-12 vote. The vote in the House late this afternoon was 74223. The measure now goes to Governor Branstad for his consideration.