Arizona senators push for bills to curb teen vaping

Nov 20, 2019, 4:25 AM
(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)...
(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)
(KTAR News Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — A Republican state senator plans to introduce a bill to resolve what she calls an epidemic of vaping among Arizona teens.

“We have spent decades keeping cigarettes out of the hands of kids,” said Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek. “We need to use those same policies to keep vaping products out of the hands of kids.”

Carter said she’s concerned more and more students, even some in elementary school, are getting caught vaping. That’s why she said she plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session to increase regulations on vaping.

Her bill would classify vaping products as tobacco, which would subject vaping products to the same restrictions as tobacco products. That includes restricting their use indoors.

Her bill also would increase the age to buy vaping and tobacco products from 18 to 21. Retailers that sell both products also would have to be licensed.

“We need to do everything we can to control the vaping industry and make sure that kids do not have access to e-cigarettes and the like,” Carter said.

State Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, also plans to introduce a bill related to vaping. His bill is meant to limit where vaping products can be advertised.

“Right now, because vaping products aren’t identified as tobacco products, they can advertise to students near schools, near playgrounds – anywhere where children convene,” he said.

Last month, discipline data obtained by KTAR News 92.3 FM showed there’s a growing number of students in East Valley schools who are getting caught with electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices on school grounds.

The biggest annual jump occurred during the 2017-2018 school year, with some districts seeing their numbers double. Students are vaping in school bathrooms and even inside classrooms.

Amanda Wheeler, executive director of the Arizona Smoke Free Business Alliance, said she and other supporters of the vaping industry agree minors should not be vaping.

However, she said the black market and not vape shops, like the ones her group represents, are the ones selling to minors.

She said the black market is also to blame for the growing number of vaping related illnesses and deaths across the country. The Arizona Department of Health Services has reported 14 cases and no deaths.

“Instead of having a targeted narrow approach to address the actual problem, which is the black market, we’re targeting what isn’t the problem,” she said.

Wheeler added vaping products help people quit smoking.

Lawmakers in the last legislative session debated competing bills, including one from Carter, related to the sale and marketing of tobacco and vaping products. Neither bill was approved.

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Arizona senators push for bills to curb teen vaping