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Editorial by Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Pat Ownbey

On January 14th of this year, we filed legislation that would prevent the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products to anyone under the age of eighteen.  E-cigarettes and vapor products will be added to the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act as a nicotine delivery device.   

On January 26, 2014, an editorial appeared in the Ardmoreite questioning the filing of our bill.  The writer touted e-cigarettes as tobacco cessation devices and even referred to them as “life-saving devices”.  The writer went on to say that teenagers are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking.  We’re not sure what research those opinions are based on.   The only evidence to support that opinion is purely anecdotal.  Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence doesn’t equal research or fact.  

Research is being conducted world-wide but currently there is no research that has found e-cigarettes to be an effective smoking cessation product.  Maybe e-cigarettes have helped some quit smoking, which is a good thing, but to promote them as cessation devices is very misleading and irresponsible.  There are approved smoking cessation products available that have been proven to be safe and effective.

 There’s extensive evidence that shows the negative effects of nicotine on the development of the teenaged brain.  Teenagers’ brains are in a critical period of growth and development.  Brain development continues well into the teenage years with major changes occurring.

Teenagers are prone to rebel and push the boundaries.  As some of us know from experience, the teenaged years are marked by a tendency towards risk-taking behavior which often results in ‘experimental’ exposure to undesirable substances.  Adolescents who tend to flirt with danger are often convinced that a small trial won’t actually have lasting damaging effects.  However, research on the development of the adolescent brain says otherwise.

Prior to drafting our bill, we met with the Oklahoma Department of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the Lung Association.  Not one group would endorse e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device.  In fact, they were concerned with the lack knowledge regarding the long term health risks associated with e-cigarettes.

We also spoke with some vapor shop owners who sell e-cigarettes and they said they personally don’t sell to anyone under eighteen and endorsed our bill limiting the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products.  

If you really want to know what’s going on “just follow the money”.  The tobacco companies are investing millions of dollars in e-cigarettes and the major marketers of e-cigarettes will soon be the major American tobacco companies.  E-cigarettes have grown to become an over $2 billion industry.  Ask yourself a question.  If e-cigarettes were an effective cessation tool would the major tobacco companies be investing millions of dollars in marketing them? We doubt that very much.  Our feeling is that the tobacco companies see a whole new generation of nicotine addicted customers.  

One gentleman who had quit cigarettes and was now smoking an e-cigarette commented, “I’m afraid I traded the devil I knew for a devil I don’t know”.

There were several reasons for us filing our legislation.  First and foremost, we feel that we as adults have the responsibility to protect our children from making bad choices that could have a long term negative impact on their health.  Secondly, we also have the responsibility to protect our children from irresponsible adults who would take advantage of them for personal gain.  

One of the primary responsibilities of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us from exploitation.  Some may think it’s okay for our children to have access to e-cigarettes, but as fathers and grandfathers we do not.