The movement to prohibit e-cigarette sales to minors is gaining steam, with legislators looking to impose a statewide ban and Davie set to become the sixth city in Broward County to follow the trend.
"They're not as safe as everybody thought they were," Davie Councilman Marlon Luis said of the devices that transform nicotine-laced liquid into vapor. "Second, it's kind of a way to keep kids from getting addicted to cigarettes."
Sunrise, Weston, Lighthouse Point, Lauderhill and Lauderdale Lakes have recently embraced similar bans to protect children younger than 18 from getting hooked on liquid nicotine. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is expected to give final approval to a ban on March 18.
Advocates say e-cigs can help smokers kick the habit. No tobacco is burned, eliminating smoke along with dangerous carcinogens, tar and carbon monoxide produced by the standard cigarette.
But critics worry about the long-term health effects, especially when used by teens lured by fun flavors like vanilla, mint and chocolate.
Officials in Hallandale Beach and Fort Lauderdale are urging legislators to impose a statewide ban on sales to minors. And they are responding, with bills expected to win approval in the upcoming legislative session.
Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, says she expects the state bill to pass and become law by July 1.
"The jury is out on whether these things are safe," Sobel said. "They may come with long-term health effects. It's not candy, that's for sure. At the end of the day, we want to protect our children from using anything that's potentially harmful."
Davie council members have given an initial nod to a ban, crafting a law that would impose fines of $1,000 a day for each violation, and up to $5,000 a day for repeat violations. The ban, which would take effect after a final vote on March 5, extends to vending machine sales.
It would be up to code officials and police officers to enforce the law.
In October, Sunrise became the first in Broward County to embrace a ban.
"When the CDC reported use among teenagers had doubled in one year, understanding the highly addictive nature of nicotine, and knowing these e-cigarettes were being marketed in candy flavors, we recognized that this was, as others have said, nicotine addiction on training wheels,'" Mayor Mike Ryan said. "We couldn't wait for the state to respond and had to take local action to protect our children and young adults."
E-cigs have been around for a decade but have spiked in popularity in the past few years.
"The e-cig community takes little issue with banning sales to minors," said Audrey Silk, founder of the Brooklyn-based smoking rights group NYC Clash.
But she worries such bans represent "a small stepping stone to full-blown bans on smoking by everybody."
She questions the assumption made by some that e-cigs are a "gateway" to cigarette smoking.
"That's like saying children who like coffee ice cream will become coffee drinkers," Silk said.
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