Melinda Deslatte / The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. -- A proposal to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 18 in Louisiana sailed through a Senate judiciary committee Tuesday.
The bill by Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, would add e-cigarettes, vaporizers and other alternative nicotine products to the list of items that can't be sold to minors in the state, putting them on par with cigarettes and other tobacco products.
E-cigarettes and vaporizers are battery-powered devices that provide users with aerosol puffs that typically contain nicotine, and sometimes flavorings like fruit, mint or chocolate. Users get their nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.
Gallot described the prohibition as a safety measure, saying nicotine ingested through e-cigarettes can have negative health effects and can be habit-forming.
"This is an increasing problem with our children who have been able to get ahold of these products," he said. "We're trying to make sure that the law catches up with the technology out there."
Health groups disagree on whether the products carry serious health risks, and research studies have been inconclusive so far, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But several health organizations supported Gallot's bill in the committee hearing Tuesday.
Gallot circulated information describing the increased popularity of e-cigarettes and noting the FDA hasn't approved them for smoking cessation, though many people use the vaporizers to try to stop smoking.
Senators on the panel backed the measure without objection, sending it to the Senate floor for consideration.
Selling to a minor or buying the products for someone under 18 would carry a fine up to $50 for the first violation, and the fines would grow larger for subsequent violations. A minor found possessing e-cigarettes or vaporizers also could face a fine up to $50.
The products would have to be moved behind the counter in businesses that serve people under 18 years old, and could only be sold in vending machines at businesses where minors are denied access, like bars.
At least 27 states already have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, according to NCSL.