Sunny Isles Beach commissioners tentatively approved an ordinance Thursday banning the sale of electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine to minors.
The ordinance also prohibited the gifting or furnishing of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to anyone under the age of 18.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that turn liquid nicotine into an odorless vapor. The act of inhaling is known as “vaping.” E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco but critics say they can be just as dangerous at tobacco cigarettes.
Vape shops are springing up across the state, and young people seem to be helping sales. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012.
Sunny Isles Commissioner George Scholl said he sponsored the ordinance after researching e-cigarette use.
“E-cigarettes are now being marketed in chewing gum flavors,” Scholl said. “Obviously they are targeting minors. ... We need to protect our minors. E-cigarettes are viewed as being more benign than they really are. They are still addictive and have some pretty harsh chemicals.”
Scholl said he hasn’t received any complaints from residents but is concerned about the use of e-cigarettes. Scholl noted media reports of an increase in emergency hospital visits for young people due to e-cigarettes.
In fact, an April 3 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the number of phone calls related to e-cigarette use to U.S. poison control centers has increased from averaging one call per month in 2010 to nearly 200 calls per month in early 2014.
A state bill that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is being opposed by anti-smoking organizations. The American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association began to oppose the bill after legislators added wording depriving local governments of the ability to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes and tobacco products.
“Lobbyists have gotten in the way of a clear path to that legislation,” Scholl said at the city commission meeting. “It became apparent that if we take this up at a local level we could get ourselves grandfathered in.”
Scholl has seen that e-cigarettes are being sold in stores in Sunny Isles Beach.
“It is important that we get proactive about these type of issues regarding our community and young people,” Scholl said. “It is a problem that is growing nationally and we should get in front of it.”
The ordinance is scheduled for final approval at the May 15 commission meeting. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the city Government Center, 18070 Collins Ave.