Delaware governor signs bill banning e-cigarette sales to minors[video]

 Gov. Jack Markell with House Bill 241 (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Gov. Jack Markell with House Bill 241 (Shana O'Malley/for NewsWorks)

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill Thursday that will officially ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Lawmakers in the First State passed the bill last month, making it illegal to sell tobacco-substitute products to anyone under the age of 18. With the governor’s signature, the law will go into effect immediately.

Markell said that while there’s often gridlock in Washington, lawmakers in Delaware were able to come together to show bipartisan support for the legislation.

“You identify a problem, you identify something that is a threat to our kids, and you act on it and that’s exactly what has happened here,” Markell said. 

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Sen. Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, co-sponsor of House Bill 241, said the legislation will prevent young people from starting the habit of smoking.

“I know that if we can keep these e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors we’re going to have fewer young people addicted to nicotine as they reach adulthood,” Blevins said.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine via water vapor and are marketed as a “safer” alternative to traditional cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration has not yet evaluated e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness, according to the FDA.

Rep. Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne, sponsor of the bill, said the unregulated product is being marketed to minors. “Some companies sell the vapor device with flavors of liquid nicotine in the cartridge, further appealing to our youth,” Hudson said. “Flavors include cotton candy, bubble gum and fruit loops. Until the FDA regulates the levels of nicotine – which is a highly addictive product – and other additives, minors should be prohibited from this practice of ‘vaping.’”

While manufacturing companies might try to market to minors, some stores in Delaware made the personal choice to refrain from selling to anyone under the age of 18.

“Before that law was even passed, we barred minors from coming into the store,” said Brendan Styles, manager of Delaware Vapor in Newark.

Styles added that he believes the majority of the “vapor industry” is in support of the bill.

“It’s the ‘wild west’,” Styles said. “It’s an unregulated industry right now and people who are really in the industry and really understand it, we realize there has to be some regulation.”

He added that some of the e-liquid is available in zero nicotine, but they still refuse to see it to minors.

Earlier this year, legislators also introduced a bill that would ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is prohibited.

That bill is still up for debate as the General Assembly heads into the final days of session.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal