Electronic cigarettes are not a big hit with teens
Smoke shop owners and school administrators supporting legislation to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors acknowledge the devices are not a teenage craze.
“I didn't know it was legal to sell to kids,” said Gabrielle Williams, co-owner of Vape Inn on East Carson Street in the South Side, which stocks the personal smoking simulators. “I never see them in here. Teenagers don't really try to buy.”
Signs such as Williams' warding off underage, would-be patrons could become a statewide norm if Senate Bill 1055, fresh from the Judiciary Committee, passes the Senate when sessions resume in the spring. Pennsylvania would be the 27th state to enact stricter legislation.
Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, introduced the measure in July as officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prepared to release a report claiming the rate of teens who admitted to using an e-cig in the past 30 days nearly doubled from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 2.8 percent in 2012. The study did not account for frequency of use.
Bill Godshall of Monroeville, a longtime anti-smoking activist who runs SmokeFree Pennsylvania and supports the bill, said those figures are not as troubling as they sound if it means teen smokers illegally obtaining cigarettes are opting for e-cigs instead.
“If teens, like adult smokers, are switching to e-cigarettes,” he said, “that's not a public health problem; that's a public health solution.”
Several regional school districts have addressed the issue, updating tobacco and alcohol policies to include alternative nicotine products on school property or at school functions.
Matthew McKinley, Seneca Valley School District's assistant superintendent for secondary schools, said he noticed an upswing last year.
“One teacher even caught a student (smoking) at the lunch table,” he said. “Kids come up with a variety of excuses, but we do prohibit the use of them on campus and discipline on a case-by-case basis. Depending on their cooperation, we might even give the device back to a parent.”
Gateway, Hempfield and several dozen other school districts endorse similar policies. Many others follow suggested updates posted on the Pennsylvania School Board Association website.
Association spokesman Steve Robinson said officials try to base those policies on existing legalese and let local districts decide, in consultation with association solicitors, how they want to phrase school mandates, a position the state Department of Education backs.
“If e-cigarette bans ever become law, obviously we would update our policies right away,” he said.
Tracy Rapport runs Smoke Alternative Electronic Cigarettes in Squirrel Hill, a store she founded because she said Pittsburgh lacks a competitive market.
“There's definitely a demand here, especially for the good, refillable and rechargeable products, but I wouldn't let someone under 18 buy here anyway,” Rapport said. “I mostly see people trying to quit smoking, so if that's what they want, they should get a parent to buy one for them.”
For now, the bill addresses only the sale of alternative tobacco products, though Solobay said he might amend the measure next year to include small fines or community service sentences for minors found in possession.
Godshall said some anti-smoking advocates take the issue too far by trying to ban the use of e-cigs by adults.
“There's no evidence these products are being marketed to kids,” he said. “The reality is these products have helped millions of smokers quit.”
Megan Harris is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or email@example.com. Staff writer Melissa Daniels contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh police deliver 2,500 Thanksgiving meals through program
- Alpine touring skiing movement faces uphill climb in Western Pa.
- Carrick crime ‘blitz’ shows early signs of success
- Legislators, Wolf agree on one thing: Higher work zone fines
- Century Inn owner hopes to reopen Washington County landmark, gutted by fire, by end of next year
- Pittsburgh nonprofit 412 Food Rescue takes surplus food to needy
- Security policies limit ‘insider threat’ at airports, TSA says
- Newsmaker: Kostas Pelechrinis
- Thermal scans could resolve age-old enigmas of Egypt’s pyramids
- Pet chiropractic more popular in Western Pa., but doubts linger
- SWAT incident in Ross ends peacefully