Kids under age 18 will no longer be able to legally buy e-cigarettes and Big Tobacco companies that produce them may be able to skirt higher taxes on the new nicotine-laden products, under a bill passed by the Ohio Senate by unanimous vote Wednesday.
While applauding the goal of keeping them from kids, health care advocates warned that the tobacco industry is pushing similar bills in nearly every state legislature across the country in an attempt to avoid higher taxes on the new products.
“It is a Trojan horse bill. It comes in looking like a gift to the people of Ohio but it’s potentially going to have terrible consequences,” said Shelly Kiser of the American Lung Association. Research shows that high taxes and indoor smoking bans are the two most effective ways to steer kids away from using tobacco, she said.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat liquid nicotine into a vapor that the user inhales. Ohio’s voter-approved indoor smoking ban does not apply to e-cigarettes.
The bill, which passed the House by a 67-25 vote in November, puts e-cigarettes in a new alternative nicotine product category. It also makes selling e-cigarettes to children under 18 a fourth degree misdemeanor offense.
The bill is backed by the Lorillard Tobacco Company, the Ohio Grocers Association, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and Attorney General Mike DeWine. It is opposed by the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.