Current state law does not prohibit vendors from selling electronic cigarettes to children, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is seeking to change that policy during this year’s legislative session.
Malloy’s proposal is aimed at e-cigarettes and preventing youth smoking. It would ban the sale of any electronic nicotine delivery device or vapor product to anyone under the age of 18. He said the devices serve as gateway products to traditional cigarettes. More than 75 percent of minors who have tried e-cigarettes also have tried the real ones, he said.
“Electronic cigarettes are currently not regulated by the federal government and there is currently no age restriction to sell, give, or possess electronic cigarettes in Connecticut,” he said. “With this legislation . . . we’re joining the 27 states that have already prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes and other related devices to minors.”
Malloy criticized the makers of electronic cigarettes for creating products flavored like candy. He said those appear to be aimed at least in part at children.
“It gives gummybears a bad reputation if you ask me. As a purchaser of gummybears at CVS, I wholeheartedly oppose that,” he said. “But in all seriousness, old habits are tough to kick apparently within the tobacco industry and providing flavors, that while not specifically directed at children, would include children . . . I just think is wrong.”
The bill, which was approved by the legislature’s Children’s Committee on Tuesday, would include a maximum fine of $200 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense within an 18 month period, and $500 for subsequent offenses within that time frame.
But e-cigarettes aren’t necessarily bad for everyone. Malloy said e-cigarettes may benefit people who are trying to quit smoking conventional cigarettes.
“Listen, this delivery system might be better than smoking for people who want to use it as an alternative to smoking, but it has the particular danger of potentially enticing children or young people into that habit, which might lead to smoking. So you try to have a balancing approach to this,” he said.
The legislation would also create fines for selling loose or individual cigarettes, which are inexpensive and more easily obtained by minors.