State Sen. Frank Simpson will be filing legislation this coming session to prevent youth access to e-cigarettes. Rep. Pat Ownbey will be the House author for the bill, which will expand the definition of tobacco products in the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act to include all nicotine delivery products other than FDA-approved cessation aids.
Research by the Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey (OYTS) shows that a significant number of youth are trying electronic cigarettes. Currently, Oklahoma has no state law prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products to youth. However, state statute does restrict youth access to other tobacco products. Studies have found that youth who are exposed to tobacco use are more likely to become regular tobacco users, which is why the southeast Oklahoma legislators want to keep youth away from e-cigarettes and vapor products.
“As we know teenagers are at a very delicate point in their lives when it comes to physical and emotional development,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore. “Many of the habits developed by our young people as teenagers may well stay with them for the rest of their lives. Research has also shown that nicotine can have a negative impact on the physical development of youth. This is why we must do all we can to prevent them from using tobacco products.”
Data shows that electronic cigarette use has doubled among middle school students and high school students. The 2013 OTYS survey shows that 7.8 percent of Oklahoma high school students and 2.7 percent of Oklahoma middle school students have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. The 2013 survey is the first year that the OYTS has included a question about e-cigarette use.
Because a child's body is still growing, teens and youth are vulnerable to nicotine’s deadly effects. Nicotine is not only highly addictive for youth, it's actually poisonous. Every day, approximately 1,500 kids become daily smokers, and one-third of them will die prematurely as a result of getting hooked.
“The use of e-cigarettes among youth is a great concern,” said Ownbey, R-Ardmore. “Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that may negatively affect the developing brain. It’s important that we protect our youth.”
There are currently no restrictions on the advertising of vapor products, unlike advertising restrictions on other tobacco products aimed at reducing youth exposure. Vapor products also are available in a variety of flavors, whereas flavored cigarettes were banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 due to their potential appeal to youth. The lack of restrictions related to sales to minors, advertising, and availability of flavors may impact current and future use of e-cigarettes and vapor products by youth in Oklahoma.
The bill was requested by State Health Commissioner Terry Cline.
“We still need more research on vapor products and their long-term effects on health, but we know from existing research that they emit more than just water vapor,” said Cline. “Research shows that users and bystanders are exposed to nicotine, chemicals and other tobacco contaminants in the vapor.”