FRANKFORT — No one under the age of 18 would be allowed to buy or possess electronic cigarettes under a bill a state Senate committee unanimously approved Thursday.
The sponsor of Senate Bill 109, Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, said the measure has the support of all tobacco companies and the sole manufacturer of e-cigarettes in Kentucky.
He stressed that all e-cigarettes are not tobacco products, but noted that they, unlike tobacco, can be sold to people of all ages in Kentucky.
"We need this to protect our youth," he said.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes. They heat a liquid solution, creating vapor that users inhale to get nicotine without the smoke of regular cigarettes.
They are billed as a safer way to get a nicotine fix, but some doctors and researchers dispute that claim. The nicotine has been blamed for poisonings.
Hornback, a tobacco farmer, said e-cigarettes should be limited to adults.
His bill does not deal with taxing e-cigarettes. Gov. Steve Beshear has called for legislation to deny access to e-cigarettes to young people and has proposed a tax on them.
SB 109 would impose a penalty fee of $50 for minors possessing e-cigarettes. It carries penalties of up to $2,500 for stores that sell the e-cigarettes to minors.
Twenty-six states now prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for its consideration, probably next week.
The House is considering a similar bill and the Federal Drug Administration is considering whether to regulate all e-cigarettes. The FDA now regulates only e-cigarettes used for therapeutical purposes.