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Washington Lawmaker Seeks To Ban E-Cigarette Sales To Minors

A bill in the state Legislature would prevent people under age 18 from buying vaping products
Flickr Photo/Joseph Morris (CC-BY-NC-ND)
A Washington state senator received a tip that minors were buying e-cigarettes to modify them for use with marijuana.

This week a state senate committee will hear a proposal that would make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes and vapes to minors.

Last fall Sen. Judy Warnick got a tip from a police officer from her district in Moses Lake. He noted that students were buying e-cigarettes easily. “They were modifying them so they could use marijuana in those cigarettes," Warnick said. 

Warnick said there wasn’t much the officer could do about it. There are no rules that prohibit selling e-cigarettes to minors. “He had no recourse,” she said, “he could not charge the store owner for selling.”

Selling cigarettes to minors is illegal. Warnick's bill would put e-cigarettes and vapes in the same category.

She worries that kids starting with these products will wind up with a bigger habit. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in 2013 more than a quarter million students in middle and high school who had never smoked cigarettes used e-cigarettes.  They’re almost twice as likely to switch to conventional cigarettes, the report said.

In Seattle’s University District Marina Westendorf manages E-Cig and Vape on Northeast 45th Street. She says she has no problem with Warnick’s proposed regulation. There’s a sign at the entrance that says no one under 18 is allowed. And she cards people before she even lets them try samples.

“I wouldn’t sell alcohol to someone under 21,” Westendorf said. “I wouldn’t sell cigarettes to someone under 18. Nicotine is addictive, regardless of what form you get it in.”

Other stores like Westendorf’s do self-regulate. But Warnick said her bill would make that practice consistent -- no matter where kids try to buy e-cigarettes. 

Year started with KUOW: 1994