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Local bans on e-cigarette sales to minors attempt to address issue of rising use among youth

He and his wife, Eva-Maye Lucchesi, opened the Union Street shop a month before the city’s Board of Health’s ban on sales to minors took effect on Jan. 1, 2010.

“We’ve had that policy since the day we opened,” he said. “I have a 15-year-old son and I wouldn’t want someone making that decision for him.”

Easthampton and 12 other communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties have made it illegal to sell non-tobacco, nicotine-delivery products to children under 18 because they are addictive and may lead to tobacco use. However, children can still buy them in 75 percent of communities in the state.

“It’s a frightening idea,” said Tami Gouveia, executive director of Tobacco Free Massachusetts. “I have a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old and in communities across the state, they could go into a store and buy an e-cigarette. And depending on whose behind the counter, they might sell it to them.”

The Hampshire and Franklin county communities with age restrictions in place are Northampton, Amherst, Easthampton, South Hadley, Hatfield, Deerfield, Sunderland, Greenfield, Buckland, Gill, Montague, Shelburne, and Wendell.

Gouveia said that in other communities, some vendors may choose to have a policy of not selling e-cigarettes to minors. But she hopes legislators pass a bill they’re considering that would make it illegal throughout the state. Anything that can be done to counter the increasing e-cigarette use in youth is a good thing, she said.

“Nationwide, the use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students has doubled in the last year,” she said.

E-cigarette use in general is increasing, she said, but there are several reasons that youths are especially picking up the habit.

Michele Komosa, director of the Tobacco Free Community Partnership for Hampshire and Franklin Counties, pointed out that e-cigarettes are available in flavors such as bubble gum, sweet tart and cotton candy.

While it’s hard to imagine an adult enjoying one of those flavors, “If you’re a kid, that’s appealing,” she said. “It’s definitely geared toward kids.”

Mary Kersell, coordinator of the Franklin-Hampshire Substance and Tobacco Prevention Partnership, said that youth are more likely to be able to afford e-cigarettes now as much cheaper kinds have hit the shelves.

“They used to cost around $100 when they first came out,” she said, and the cartridges to refill the devices were also expensive. Now some are available at gas stations for under $10, she said. “Introducing flavors and dropping the price are typical ways to market to youth.”

Manufacturers of e-cigarettes have also launched advertising campaigns that, like the Marlboro man or Joe Camel ads of old, try to make the devices seem cool. While advertising tobacco products on television and radio was outlawed in 1970, it is perfectly legal to air ads for e-cigarettes.

“It undoes all the work we’ve done for years to prevent smoking in young people,” Komosa said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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When electronic cigarettes appeared on the U.S. market in 2006, they were marketed as healthier, smoke-free alternatives to traditional cigarettes that could be used even in places where smoking is banned. The devices, which usually resemble cigarettes, use a battery to heat liquid containing nicotine which becomes a vapor that can be inhaled. The practice is known as “vaping” because … 2

Electronic cigarettes were designed to give adult smokers a safer way to use nicotine. They work as intended. These products should not be sold to minors, just as we regulate alcohol. Smoking bans were implemented to protect bystanders from harm, and now people want to ban e-cigs because they LOOK like smoking. Big Tobacco has seen a drop in the sale of traditional cigarettes, as adult smokers are turning to a product that is 99% safer than smoking. Tobacco companies are responsible to their shareholders, so it isn't surprising that they would want to introduce their own versions of this innovative product. The sad thing is that e-cigs could eliminate the need for Tobacco Control, since these devices allow adults to use nicotine in a much safer manner with NO harm to bystanders. When smokers stop buying cigarettes, there is no longer a need to control. Or a need for traditional pharmaceutical products that have a dismal success rate (even the ones that come in pleasant flavors). When a smoker stops inhaling smoke, their senses of taste and smell improve. E-cigs that taste like bubble gum, watermelon or caramel actually help adults to stay away from traditional cigarettes. The flavors aren't just "kid-friendly", they appeal to adults too. Unless the folks in tobacco control really want me to believe that they never indulge in chocolate ice cream or cotton candy at the Big E? Common sense should prevail here. Nicotine isn't the harmful ingredient in tobacco cigarettes, it's all of the other constituents in the smoke. E-cigs contain food grade flavoring, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and a small amount of nicotine. Adult smokers deserve truthful information to make an informed decision. The information is out there, you just won't get it from your local tobacco control group.

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