New law bans e-cigarette use for kids under 18

A new Kansas law that takes effect July 1 will ban anyone under 18 from purchasing or possessing electronic cigarettes.

Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control had heard concerns from school resource officers about students who possessed the electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, some of which were designed like pens and flash drives instead of cigarettes. Thompson said school districts could create their own policies prohibiting possession of the items on school property but that it was not illegal for students to have or use e-cigarettes.

“They emit nicotine just like the way a cigarette would,” Thompson said. “That’s a harmful product and an addictive product.”

Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed the bill after the Kansas Senate and House passed it in May. Thompson said he worked on the bill with Reps. Pat Colloton, Melanie Meier and Tom Sloan. Sloan is a Lawrence Republican.

The law defines electronic cigarettes as a battery-powered device, whether it’s shaped like a cigarette or not, that can provide inhaled doses of nicotine by “delivering a vaporized solution” either by cartridges or other chemical delivery systems. The FDA has voiced concerns about the use, often called “vaping,” of e-cigarettes. Thompson worried that if children used e-cigarettes, which could be purchased at mall kiosks, they would become addicted to nicotine.

“Obviously we can see that there is a harm, and we had heard about it,” Thompson said. “We are about trying to nip things in the bud.”

Doug Jorgensen, the ABC’s director, said the law prohibits anyone from selling e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18, exactly how the current law regulates the sale of cigarettes.

Under the new law, vendors licensed to sell regular cigarettes wouldn’t have to make any changes to their current license, nor would they have to reapply. He said vendors who don’t sell tobacco cigarettes, like carts or mall kiosks, will need to obtain a state license.

“Allowing kids under 18 that exposure to pure nicotine, which can be addictive, we just needed to take a look at controlling it,” Jorgensen said.

Trudy Cooley, an office manager for Safer Smoke Supply of Leavenworth, said the law won’t affect the company’s business because it already prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 18. She said that includes sales on the company’s website and through its vendors in Kansas and Missouri.

“It’s not because they are harmful,” Cooley said. “We just don’t need to promote this to kids. This is a safer way for people to smoke, and we don’t want kids just trying it for the heck of it.”