A Senate committee on Wednesday unanimously advanced a bill that would ban the sale of vaping products to teenagers, but split on another measure that would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum age to buy tobacco.
The vaping bill, introduced by committee Chair Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, will now be sent to the full Senate for possible debate and amendment.
If it passes, the legislation would expand the state’s definition of “tobacco product” to include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), such as vapes and e-cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products.
In a memo explaining the bill, Baker said that the “complex and expanding market” for these products requires legislative action to ensure they stay out of the hands of minors.
By amending the state’s tobacco product definition, the bill would explicitly prohibit the sale of vapes, e-cigs, and other emerging nicotine products to anyone under the age of 18. It would also prohibit the use of these products in schools.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced a similar bill earlier this month.
The rise of vaping products, such as the popular Juul, has some lawmakers concerned about the prevalence of nicotine products among minors and in schools.
A memo Baker released this month cites data from the Centers for Disease Control, which found that use of ENDS and nicotine products by high school students rose by more than 75 percent between 2017 and 2018.
Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, said he’s troubled by accounts of children sharing vapes in schools, which he hears as the father of a fifth-grade child.
Martin called the bill “a great starting point for enforcement,” but noted that the Senate will have to work out some of the legalities before it can advance for a final vote.
In a swift meeting Wednesday morning, the Senate committee also split on another tobacco-related bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco in Pennsylvania to 21.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, got six affirmative votes and six negative votes from committee members, and failed to advance to the Senate.