Story County Board of Supervisors presents ordinance to limit e-cigarette sales to minors


Miranda Cantrell/Iowa State Daily

Electronic cigarettes were invented in the 1960s, but have only recently become popular in the U.S. Unlike regular cigarettes, they are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Emelie Knobloch

The Story County Board of Supervisors had a second public input meeting about a proposed ordinance to regulate e-cigarettes April 3 in City Council Chambers. 

The proposed ordinance would prohibit the sale of battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid solutions that typically contain nicotine to people under the age of 18 years old.

“The myth around e-cigarettes is that they are safe because you aren’t using tobacco,” said Denise Denton, senior lecturer in the kinesiology department and prevention education coordinator of Youth and Shelter Services.

Linn County has the only nicotine ordinance in the state of Iowa at this time.

“The ongoing challenge that people that are trying to get a grip on this issue seem to have difficulty coming up with a definition that is clear,” said Wayne Clinton, member of the board.

The first public input meeting was at 7 p.m. March 31 the Story County Administrative Building in Nevada.

“If any of these devices can be possessed by minors, police won’t be able to enforce this,” Stephen Holmes, Story County attorney and one of the authors of the ordinance.

Denton said there are 1.7 milligrams of nicotine in a cigarette and 17 milligrams of nicotine in a nicotine cartridge that can be put into an e-cigarette.

“I will say that I think I have enough key people persuaded. If we close the nicotine/non-nicotine loophole, than we can get it through,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach regarding regulating e-cigarettes. 

Dr. George Belitsos, executive director of Youth and Shelter Services, said minors make up a large amount of e-cigarette users.

“I just came from our drug treatment program,” said Belitsos. “I asked the kids how many of them had used these products, and many of them said they had.”

Belitsos said the children he works with said they are easier to obtain than cigarettes.

“They are now making liquid marijuana that comes in cartridges,” Belitsos said. “There is no smell. Someone could be walking down the street using it and no one would know.”

New York City has now banned e-cigarettes from being used in public because of the vapor released, according to Denton.

“There is no other substance that is as addictive as nicotine,” Denton said. “Crack and meth are a close second and third, but nicotine is even more addictive.”

Denton said this is why most people that try smoking usually end up becoming smokers themselves.

“If you are 15 years old, cellular change begins at the first cigarette,” Denton said.

Approximately 480,000 Americans die every year from tobacco related products. 56,000 die from second-hand smoke, according to Denton.

“Tobacco has about 2,000 chemicals and when you burn it, it has 4,000 chemicals,” Denton said.

Denton said that the ordinance isn’t about just e-cigarettes but all nicotine products for children.

Currently, e-cigarettes are almost completely unregulated in Iowa, although some retailers voluntarily ID customers to avoid sales to minors.