By Andy Sevilla
It may soon be against the law in Kyle for minors to possess an electronic cigarette within the city limits, a move that would preempt any potential state and federal prohibitions.
The Kyle council last week took its first step in outlawing possession by minors of a device that simulates smoking and uses liquid nicotine to produce a gas or vapor that resembles smoke. Final approval is expected June 3.
“We collectively feel that this would positively benefit the city and protect the youth,” said Nik Fisher, the Kyle Area Youth Advisory Council (KAYAC) liaison on the council. “I would advise all of you (council members) to support this ordinance.”
KAYAC, under consultation with the city attorney and police chief, drafted the ordinance banning e-cigarettes. The advisory committee’s student vice-chair, James Collins, told council in his presentation of the ordinance that the matter came to their purview after concerns of students using the device on school campuses surfaced.
“We thought this wasn’t an appropriate activity for minors to engage in,” Collins told council.
While there are presently no laws by the federal and state governments banning the use of e-cigarettes by minors, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April proposed a rule to incorporate electronic cigarettes under its regulatory authority of tobacco-related substances and products.
“It does seem… shocking that any 12 or 13-year-old could go into a store in Kyle and buy an e-cigarette or smoke it on campus,” Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson said before the council unanimously approved the ban on first reading. “I’m very happy that the FDA is taking up this issue, until then I’m happy to make the sale of e-cigarettes illegal to minors in Kyle as soon as possible.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prepared emergency response information addressing the dangers associated with liquid nicotine, according to the city legislation. The CDC has ruled that nicotine affects the nervous system and heart, as well being an addictive substance.
“Exposure to relatively small amounts of liquid nicotine can be rapidly fatal,” the ordinance cites the CDC as finding.
The federal agency found that e-cigarette use more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011 to 2012. During that time period, students who used e-cigarettes at least once increased from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent, while current e-cigarette use increased from 1.1 percent to 2.1 percent, the CDC reported in September.
“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Tom Friedman, M.D., M.P.H., in statement. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”
The CDC director on smoking and health, Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement that about 90 percent of all smokers begin as teenagers.
“We must keep our youth from experimenting or using any tobacco product,” he wrote. “These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical.”
Once some local minors heard of the Kyle council’s attempted ban of e-cigarettes to minors and from possession by minors, they took to social media to voice disapproval.
“At least we aren’t shooting heroin,” one student said on Twitter.
“So you rather us smoke cigarettes,” another student tweeted.
The purpose and intent of the proposed ban on e-cigarettes for minors is to protect them from the health risks and potential hazards of nicotine addiction and reported dangers of ingesting products with no regulatory oversight as to their contents and potential health impacts, the legislations states.
Once passed, a violation of the ban can call for a criminal misdemeanor offense.