E-cigarettes under legislative debate


For some senators and Nebraska business owners, concerns over the health effects of electronic cigarettes have them hoping a bill banning minors from purchasing or using e-cigs won’t be vaporized in the legislature.

“I don’t feel there has been enough research on e-cigarettes for minors to have them,” Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilbur said, according to the Unicameral Update.

On Jan. 27, Sen. Karpisek introduced the bill, LB 861, which would add vapor products to the list of tobacco-based products that are illegal for sale to anyone under 18.

If the bill passes, vendors who sell vapor products to minors would face a Class III misdemeanor, and minors caught using the devices would be subject to a Class V misdemeanor.

The controversy over electronic cigarettes is derived from a myriad of contentious areas regarding health effects, increased teen usage and concerns about a resurgence in traditional tobacco products as a result of increased e-cig usage.

Some store owners oppose the bill, however, because it makes unlawful the sale of vapor products from a self-service display (with exception to tobacco specialty stores, where an adult is required to accompany a minor anyway).

A self-service display is simply a retail display where the customer does not need assistance from a salesperson to access the product(s).

Despite the push for regulation in many states–27 of which have already banned e-cig sales to minors–the devices are growing in popularity among inmates.

In county jails across the nation, the New York Times reports that prison wardens are capitalizing on the therapeutic benefits and safer nature of e-cigs. The smokeless, flameless plastic devices are a safer bet than traditional cigarettes, which are prohibited in jail. Giving inmates a relaxing dose of nicotine without the smoke, e-cigs have become one of the hottest items in rural Nebraska jails.

One e-cigarette company even markets specifically to this niche jail market, writing in all caps on its website, “Earn thousands of dollars for your jails while curtailing nicotine withdrawal of your inmates.”

The General Affairs Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature has not taken action on the bill.

To read the bill, click here.

Grant Harrison
Commentary Editor