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N.H. teen leads push to ban e-cigarettes

Wants lawmakers to enact law to halt sales to minors

By Norma Love
Associated Press / March 14, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — Electronic cigarettes are readily available at mall kiosks and the Internet, come in flavors like tobacco, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla, and replace smoking with “vaping.’’

And though they deliver a dose of nicotine steam, they can still be legally sold to and used by minors.

Mara Zrzavy, a 16-year-old ConVal Regional High School student from Peterborough, thinks that is wrong, and worries children her age will view e-cigarettes as cool and become addicted to the nicotine. After they are hooked, some will switch to regular cigarettes, which are cheaper, she said.

“It’s like having a new cellphone. It’s cool. It’s electronic,’’ she said.

Zrzavy and other New Hampshire youths involved in antidrug programs helped persuade the House to pass a bill barring e-cigarette use by minors and hope the Senate will do the same.

Supporters want lawmakers to apply New Hampshire’s law on tobacco products to e-cigarettes. New Jersey has barred use by minors, in workplaces and other indoor public places. Several other states are considering laws restricting use by minors.

Under New Hampshire law, it is illegal to sell tobacco to minors and for minors to buy, possess, or use tobacco products. Minors who violate the law face fines of up to $100, up to 20 hours of community service, or both.

The federal Food and Drug Administration does not regulate electronic cigarettes. A federal judge ruled in January that the agency lacked jurisdiction over them as drugs.

Electronic cigarettes look like the real thing but don’t contain tobacco. They use a metal tube with a battery to heat a liquid nicotine solution in a replaceable cartridge. Users inhale and exhale the resulting water vapor. The tip of the tube lights like a cigarette. The process is called “vaping’’ instead of smoking.

“You look like a tea kettle essentially,’’ said Marie Mulroy, tobacco program manager at Breathe New Hampshire, which is helping the children in their fight.

Electronic cigarettes are marketed as an alternative to cigarettes and were first marketed worldwide in 2002, but did not become widespread in the United States until late in 2006, said James Watt, a board member of the

The Electronic Cigarette Association supports restricting the product’s use to adults and supports the move in New Hampshire to restrict access. “Usage of electronic cigarettes is a lot like smoking. That is an adult activity,’’ said association board member James Watt.