By: Summer Perritt
Pedro Menendez High School
Special to Historic City News
The Electronic Cigarette. The e-cig, the thing on all the posters in the gas station, and in all the ads in my magazine, or however you choose to identify the new “up and coming” nicotine product; one thing’s for sure, it has been rapidly sweeping the nation with very little regulation.
The e-cig is thought by many to be a beneficial substitute to the known harmful effects of the regular tobacco cigarette. However, the e-cig has begun an epidemic of its own; its usage has doubled from 2011 to 2012 among middle and high school students, and adults ages 18-34.
With the take-off of the new, mostly untested products, the Florida House of Representatives passed a law that takes effect on July 1st, 2014. Briefly, the law states that you must be 18 or older to purchase or be in possession of any electronic nicotine device. If caught buying or possessing any of these products, a fine, community service hours, and a mandatory anti-tobacco nicotine class will be levied.
If multiple offenses occur, more serious consequences will follow, including a suspended driver’s license. In addition to this, the law also states that it is illegal to keep any electronic nicotine device in a “self-serve” display, meaning all e-cig products must remain behind the counter or in a locked display.
In conjunction with this law, and the rise in popularity of e-cigs among youth, an amendment to the St Johns County Student Code of Conduct was made as well. Any students caught on a school campus with any e-cig device will face a violation of the Code of Conduct and therefore will be punished for violating the Code.
Many of the disposable e-cigs intentionally look like pens or pencils, often with a colorful, graphic wrapping. In fact, some refer to an e-cigs as an “e-hookah” or e-pen. No matter what you call them, all electronic nicotine delivery devices and components are banned from student possession.
This law is particularly important considering yet-unregulated advertising that targets electronic cigarettes towards minors. Although the law prohibits youth from purchase or possession of e-cigarette products, no regulation has been passed as far as the advertisement of these harmful devices.
The awareness of the e-cig among teenagers, 13 to 17, is reported as an astounding 89%, and even greater with 94% awareness among young adults ages 18-21. Of course these teens, exposed to the reported average of $39-million dollars in advertising from June to November in 2013, are very likely to try the product. Legacy Health, an organization aimed at a healthy America, says the percentage of teens who have at least tried the new e-cig is at 14% and 39% among young adults.
Florida’s new law is a great first step in protecting a new generation from nicotine addiction and disease, but such large-scale ad campaigns seem to demand regulation of e-cig advertising — the same way traditional cigarette advertising is regulated.