Measure barring minors from e-cigarette purchases sent to Missouri governor

JEFFERSON CITY • The Food and Drug Administration proposed new regulations for electronic cigarettes last month after years of consideration. The proposal includes banning sales to minors and requiring warning labels.

But the FDA rules will not take effect until they go through the public comment process and could be challenged in the courts. Missouri’s Legislature approved a bill barring the sale of “e-cigarettes” to minors and sent it to the governor Monday. If signed by Gov. Jay Nixon, it would go into effect Aug. 28.

Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, sponsored the House bill and described it as an important step forward in regulating e-cigarettes and other “vapor products.”

“I think it very much lines up with the FDA ruling that was made,” Rowden said.

Electronic cigarettes are often electronic devices that heat a nicotine solution that can be inhaled like smoke but contains none of the toxins in tobacco cigarettes. The vapors come in a variety of flavors, and critics charge some are marketed to children. A 2013 Centers for Disease Control study indicated that one in 10 high school students had tried e-cigarettes in 2012.

Critics of the bill pointed to a provision exempting these products from being taxed or regulated as tobacco products. Only Minnesota has a specific tax on e-cigarettes and other states including New Jersey, Washington and Utah have considered a specific tax, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Some states have grouped e-cigarettes with tobacco products but at least seven have passed bills supported by the e-cigarette industry to create a separate definition as “alternative nicotine products” or “vapor products.” The Missouri proposal distinguishes these terms from tobacco products.

Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Couer, said on the House floor Monday that this definition and exemption from regulations applying to tobacco products could limit the ability of the FDA to impose future regulations on e-cigarettes. She called it a “pre-emptive strike” against the FDA’s authority.

“Even though the FDA did come out with regulations that increase the taxes on e-cigarette products we need to leave the door open,” Schupp said. “We know it takes more than just not selling these products to 18 year olds to stop young people from smoking.”

Rowden said there was still not enough information about the products to know how they should be regulated and that the Legislature could change the law in future as more studies were done.