Lawmakers may limit e-cigarette sales

Published On: Mar 03 2013 12:50:00 PM HST

Many smokers have turned to "vaping" to get their nicotine fix, creating the young and growing industry of electronic cigarettes sales in Hawaii.

Some buyers of these products are also young, in fact they are minors.
Right now that is completely legal.

Years of hearing the message about the harmful effects of smoking have sunk in for many Hawaii teenagers.

"We know not to smoke and its bad for you, but its still cool to walk around with a cigarette. You don't want to be that stinky kid though, who is smoking up and polluting everyone's air," said Alana Laanui, a high school junior at Maryknoll School.

A number of island teens have taken to electronic inhalers and e-cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes are the new generation's way of looking cool while still having a smoke-free presence," said Laanui.

E-cigarettes vaporize a liquid solution into a mist to simulates smoking without the stink or tobacco side-effects. Right now, it is legal for anyone to buy them.

"Young people can purchase e-cigarettes. There is no age restriction," said Nicole Sutton, the coordinator for REAL: Hawaii Youth Movement Exposing the Tobacco Industry.

Teens also said the same thing when they went to e-cigarette kiosks at the malls.

"I was never asked my age. The salespeople pushed to get us to purchase them," said REAL activist Makeda Morris.

A bill being advanced by some lawmakers, would make it illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase electronic cigarettes.

Some of these vaporizers may not even contain nicotine, so what is the problem with teens picking up this habit?

"It just normalizes smoking, the act of smoking," said Sutton.

Sutton is worried it will one day lead to teens smoking real cigarettes and face future health problems.

At Vaportokers in Nuuanu, all products, including nicotine-free items, are off-limits to minors.

"Typically someone under 18 is not allowed to buy things," said Kalei Hoopai with Vaportokers.

Hoopai was not worried about an age-limit bill, but was concerned more regulation will eventually lead to more taxes. He fears that could vaporize profits for the growing industry.

"It's gonna happen. I just don't know when or how it will work. They're going to find a way to eventually mess with e-cigarette businesses," said Hoopai.

Hoopai said that could drive many e-cigarette shoppers to the Internet. That is where some minors are already going.

"Usually they go on-line where you don't have to prove you are of age," said Libby Lafitaga, a sophomore at Kalaheo High School.

Price used to be a factor in keeping teens from buying e-cigarettes, but now the electronic devices can be bought for less than a pack of real cigarettes.


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