Alaska Senate approves youth e-cigarette ban

The Alaska Senate has voted 18-0 to prohibit the sales of e-cigarettes and vaporizers to Alaskans under 19 years old.

Senate Bill 15, proposed by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, goes to the Alaska House of Representatives for consideration.

If approved there and signed by Gov. Bill Walker, SB 15 would expand Alaska’s existing ban on vaping by those under 19. State law prohibits those under 19 from buying or otherwise acquiring e-cigarettes, vaporizers and the liquid used in those devices if they contain nicotine. Stevens’ bill aims to expand that prohibition to all electronic cigarettes, not just those that use nicotine.

Senate President Pete Kelly, said shortly before the vote that he was “dying” to hear the bill.

“I’m glad to hear you’re dying to hear this bill. I hope regular people are not dying to hear this bill,” Stevens said. “This is about protecting our children.”

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

Stevens, speaking on the Senate floor, said that doesn’t mean it is safe. He pointed to a just-published 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.

Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, echoed Stevens’ concern and said that with e-cigarette liquids flavored like “strawberry, candy and fruit,” there is no doubt in her mind that manufacturers are marketing to children.

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.

No member of the Senate spoke against the bill before its passage.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.