Dane County Restricts E-Cigarette Sales

man smoking e-cigarette
File: man smoking e-cigarette. Photo: momentimedia (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Dane County is seeking to strengthen the state’s ban on selling tobacco products to minors by preventing the sale of e-cigarettes, even though they don’t contain tobacco.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices made to look like cigarettes. They have no tobacco, but do contain nicotine. Ryan Sheehan with Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition says there’s a lot people don’t know about these products. “It’s currently the nicotine version of the Wild Wild West: no sheriff in town,” Sheehan said. “With zero oversight, they can freely advertise”

An ordinance recently passed by the Dane County Board wouldn’t affect marketing of e-cigs, though it would ban selling to and possession by minors. Meanwhile a state senator is trying to pass an exemption for e-cigs under the state’s smoking ban. Republican Glenn Grothman says e-cigarettes should be allowed, because they are often used by adult smokers who want to quit.

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“I have no problem with saying minors shouldn’t buy e cigarettes,” Grothman said. “I don’t know why a minor would buy an e-cigarette because the whole idea is to stop smoking! It would be like having Nicorette gum before you ever smoked. It makes no sense.”

The Journal of Public Health Policy said electronic cigarettes show promise in the fight against tobacco-related deaths. But critics of e-cigarettes note they can be flavored to attract young people, many of whom may not smoke real cigarettes yet. Janel Heinrich is with Madison Dane County Public Health. “I defintely believe they can lead to actually smoking cigarettes. Kids that are going to use e-cigs are more than likely going to take up smoking.”

Preliminary studies by the FDA have found vapor from e-cigarettes contains carcinogenic metals at levels greater than traditional tobacco smoke.