Erie County lawmakers could soon make a move to keep electronic cigarettes out of of the hands of teenagers. Experts are urging them to do just that.
At a Health and Human Services committee meeting Thursday, members took the procedural step of officially expressing concern about the e-cigarette epidemic. More action could be on the horizon.
Legislator John Bruso, the committee’s chairman, invited experts in the health and education fields to shed some light on the issue. Jessica Hutchings, who works with Kids Escaping Drugs, was one of those experts to share her views with lawmakers. She pointed out as many as 80 percent of middle and high school students are vaping.
“The marketing is a huge problem with these devices,” Hutchings said. “Not only are the devices designed to be very sleek and modern and trendy, but the products put into them are designed to be very attractive to a young person.”
They’re getting them from the older students,” said Joseph DePlato, who is the school resource officer in the Iroquois Central School District. “What the older students are doing is they’re going up to the reservation and they’re buying and then they’re bringing them back and they’re selling them at a profit to the younger kids.”
Dr. Richard O’Connor is a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He said while the issue is being looked at by the federal government, local governing bodies, like the Erie County Legislature, have a role too.
“I think the most important thing we can do is restricting access,” said Dr. O’Connor. “That’s something that’s outside the FDA’s broad mandate.”
Right now, the minimum age to buy e-cigarettes in Erie County is 18. O’Connor would like to see lawmakers increase the age to 21, as is the case in 20 counties across New York State, including Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties.
“I would like to most certainly make that my ultimate goal,” said Bruso. “I would say one thing though. We want to do it the right way.”
To do it the right way, Bruso says he needs more information. So he’ll be holding a community forum on March 6th at the Lancaster Opera House for further discussion.