Youth e-cigarette ban nears Alaska House vote

The Alaska House of Representatives is preparing for a final vote to prohibit Alaskans 18 and under from buying electronic cigarettes and the liquid used within them.

State law already prohibits stores from selling e-cigarettes with nicotine liquids to juveniles; Senate Bill 15 would extend that ban to cover liquids that do not contain nicotine.

On Monday, the House Finance Committee approved SB 15 with dissent from only Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole. Wilson suggested, then withdrew, an amendment that would have overwritten the core of the bill. In formal documents, she had support from Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla. Tilton did not speak during the discussion.

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee for scheduling, and while that is normally a formality, House Rules Chairwoman Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, has repeatedly held bills relating to smoking.

This year, she has delayed a vote on Senate Bill 63, which would prohibit smoking in most indoor public places.

SB 63 has wide support in the House, and even though members of the rules committee have supported changes to the bill by LeDoux (in an attempt to get it to a floor vote), it has failed to advance.

Through a staffer, she declined comment Tuesday on SB 15, which is sponsored by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and passed the Senate in an 18-0 vote last month.

The Alaska vaping trade organization, Clear the Air Alaska, has argued that e-cigarette use is a safer alternative to smoking.

Stevens, speaking last month, said that doesn’t mean e-cigarettes are safe. He pointed to an article in the journal Pediatrics that found elevated levels of cancer-causing volatile organic compounds in the bodies of teenagers who use e-cigarettes.

“These products are assumed to be safe and harmless, but that is absolutely not the truth,” Stevens said.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by the state, 18 percent of Alaska youths have used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. That’s a higher proportion than the percentage of children who have smoked (11 percent) in the same period.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


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