Calling the measure a big win for efforts to reduce tobacco use in the state and particularly among young people, Gov. Steve Beshear signed Senate Bill 109 into law, banning the sale of all types of e-cigarettes to minors.
The Governor specifically urged legislators to pass this bill during his State of the Commonwealth in January, and identified this effort as a key part of his legislative agenda.
"We have the highest rates of youth smoking in the country," said Gov. Beshear. "And we know that if we can keep our children from trying cigarettes -- including e-cigarettes -- before the age of 18, they are significantly less likely to become smokers later in life. I commend the General Assembly for passing this important bill."
SB109 prohibits the sales of all types of e-cigarettes to minors, regardless of whether the devices use nicotine. Food and Drug Administration testing has found that a number of e-cigarettes sold as "nicotine-free" actually contained the drug, and the largely unregulated nature of e-cigarette products at present creates enforcement issues around youth access for state agencies, retailers, school districts and parents.
The effects of SB109 are especially important now. Between 2011 and 2012, the percentage of all youth in grades 6 to 12 who had tried e-cigarettes doubled, with e-cigarettes being increasingly marketed to minors. The vast majority of youth who have used e-cigarettes have also smoked conventional cigarettes.
"Anytime we pass a piece of legislation such as Senate Bill 109, we are ultimately protecting our children, and that is a legislative intent and focus we can remain proud of as Kentuckians," said Sen. Paul Hornback, of Shelbyville.
"Prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is an important step in the right direction for an issue that deserves quick attention," said Rep. Joni Jenkins. "Nicotine products of any kind should remain off-limits to Kentucky's most precious resource - our children. I am thankful for the bipartisan conversation about e-cigarette regulations, and look forward to continue monitoring this issue."
The goal to reduce Kentucky's smoking rate by 10 percent over the next five years is one goal of Gov. Beshear's recently created initiative, kyhealthnow, which aims to reduce Kentucky's dismal health rankings and habits through goals and strategies related to seven areas that include obesity, cancer and health insurance.
The initiative's oversight team consists of cabinet secretaries and key state agency officials, and is chaired by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.
"Kentucky has a special incentive to enforce strong restrictions on minor access to tobacco products, given our high rates of smoking both among teens and adults," said Lt. Gov. Abramson. "We hope this bill will prevent our young Kentuckians from trying e-cigarettes and from moving on to traditional cigarettes as a result. One of the kyhealthnow initiative's key priorities is to change the state's culture so that smoking of any kind among young people is not tolerated."
Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, vice chair of the kyhealthnow group, agreed. "Smoking is the single biggest health challenge we face in Kentucky. With every step we take to reduce the rate of smoking, we are building a healthier state."