Miami-Dade County

Miami moves to ban sale of e-cigarettes to minors

The city of Miami took its first step Thursday to make the sale of trendy e-cigarettes to minors illegal.

The city commission voted unanimously on first reading to ban the sale of the popular devices to people under the age of 18. The item, sponsored by Commissioner Wifredo Gort, also prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes in vending machines.

Miami would join other South Florida cities such as Weston and Sunrise that have outlawed the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The measure would become law in Miami 30 days after a second, final reading.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated tubes that turn nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. The liquid is typically flavored in varieties such as cherry, grape or bubblegum.

E-cigarette aficionados don’t smoke, they “vape,” exhaling a wispy cloud that quickly fades.

In recent years, South Florida has seen a boom in e-cigarette retailers. Billboard ads showcase the smokeless tube devices, which come in a variety of colors and styles.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette usage more than doubled among middle and high school students users from 2011 to 2012.

Nancy Maidique, chair of the Tobacco-Free Work Group, an initiative of the Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade, said e-cigarettes are luring children toward the use of traditional cigarettes.

Children are being preyed on by tobacco companies “to replace the number of adults dying from their products,” she said at Thursday’s meeting.

Proponents of e-cigarettes say it is safer than traditional cigarettes; however there is no definitive science about the long-term effects of e-cigarette use.

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates traditional cigarettes, has announced plans to study e-cigarettes and regulate the devices.

In the meantime, local governments are getting involved.

The Miami-Dade School Board banned e-cigarettes from schools and other board-owned property. Miami-Dade County also recently banned e-cigarettes from its buildings and buildings owned by Jackson Health Systems.

Miami will consider regulating the use of e-cigarettes in city buildings at a later date.

Meanwhile, the Florida Senate is considering a statewide ban of the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.