Utah lawmaker wants e-cigarettes regulated like tobacco industry

Posted at 9:26 PM, Jan 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-23 14:44:20-05

WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- Teenagers smoking e-cigarettes: One Utah lawmaker is calling it an epidemic in Weber County.

Wednesday night, Health Officials held a town hall meeting at Odyssey Elementary in Ogden. They handed out pamphlets in hopes of educating the public, especially parents, about the dangers.

At the meeting was a Utah lawmaker, Representative Paul Ray, who is proposing new legislation, which would regulate an industry that is unregulated right now.

"We've had a 500 percent increase in teens that use these in the last two years,” he said. “Right now in Weber County, 30 percent of the youth have experimented with them, 20 percent of them use them on a regular basis, so to me that's certainly an epidemic.”

He said more and more teens are turning to e-cigarettes. With flavors like Captain Crunch, bubble gum and cotton candy, the electronic devices are appealing for the youth. They smell good and leave no odor behind, making it an easy habit to hide from parents.

"This all came from junior high kids ranging from the age of 12 to 15," said Officer Broc Gresham, who is a Roy Junior High School resource officer who showed FOX 13 News all the e-cigarettes confiscated from students in the past few months.

"Some of the kids are saying that they're using so that they don't smoke cigarettes, some of them it was there and they did and they had it," Gresham said.

"There's zero regulation on the manufacture or the sale of e-cigarettes right now," Ray said.

It's against the law to sell e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 19, but, because there are no licensing regulations, the clerks often times go unpunished. Ray said buyers should beware: there's no way of knowing what's really in the water vapor.

"A lot of people make them in their garage or basement or their kitchen and they go sell them in these stores, so we want to regulate how they're made,” Ray said. “That's why you've had some of them blowing up on people."

Gresham said education is their aim.

"I know specifically that not very many people understand electronic cigarettes, that's the whole purpose of the meeting tonight is--I think, even I would like more understanding quite honestly, it just hasn't been around long enough to... you don't know what the harmful effects are," he said.

Aaron Frazier is the director of Utah Vapers, an organization that focuses on "Tobacco Harm Reduction" through the use of e-cigarettes.

The organization is composed of vendors and consumers who believe e-cigarettes and other vapor products should be regulated and meet certain standards.

"We've been waiting for the last year for these regulations to come out, and that's why our organization, actually, has kind of taken a step forward and started working with the health department to put some regulations in place here in the state," Frazier said in an interview last month.

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Director of Utah Vapers discusses e-cigarette regulation