COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Health advocacy groups are urging Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to veto legislation that would exempt electronic cigarettes from some tobacco sales restrictions while barring people younger than 18 from buying them.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Wednesday that several advocacy groups contend classifying e-cigarettes as non-tobacco product would hamper other anti-smoking efforts. Tobacco Free Missouri, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association and the American Cancer Society say Missouri can prohibit sales “without undermining existing tobacco-control laws.”
“Without more conclusive evidence regarding the safety of these products, any legislation that does not define electronic smoking devices as tobacco products is a dangerous proposition and may pose a risk to the health of Missourians,” the groups wrote in a statement.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices used to heat a flavored nicotine solution and create a vapor inhaled by the user. Legislation awaiting action by Nixon would define them as “alternative nicotine” or “vapor products” and place some restrictions on them, including requiring that they only be sold at licensed dealers and giving fines to teens who try to buy them illegally.
State Rep. Caleb Rowden, who handled the measure in the House, said e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and should not be classified as tobacco products. He says vetoing the legislation would mean teens could continue using them and that lawmakers could address in the future any needs for additional regulations.
“These groups advocate for an unrealistic end goal to eliminate tobacco products in our country,” said Rowden, R-Columbia. “While I understand their position, my job is to be pragmatic in passing legislation that will benefit the people of this great state.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans this year to ban sales to minors, add warning labels and require agency approval for new products.
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