Proposed bill to increase age of buying tobacco, vaping products

Posted at 10:34 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-06 00:25:09-05

It's no secret smoking is bad for us, under Nebraska state law anyone under the age of 18 is banned from buying tobacco.

A new proposed law from Sen. Merv Riepe would bump the age to buy those products to 21 but there's also another product that raises some eyebrows, vapor products.

The devices are mostly battery operated-that give out small amounts of nicotine if the consumer wants it in the capsule-many times flavored and release vapors instead of smoke.

Eric Johnson who owns Caterpillar Vapes thinks the bill isn't needed and says people shouldn't compare cigarette smoking to vaping.

“You've got somebody who is 18 years of age who can make decisions on their own,” said Johnson, “When you start lumping them together it becomes imperative that you have the science to back it up and right now the science isn't there.”

In LB 73, it states that the 'health risks associated with smoking tobacco products have been scientifically proven’ and  that 'the growing number of minors who start smoking is staggering and even more abhorrent are the ages at which such children begin this deadly habit.'

Johnson says there are a lot of younger people vaping but he thinks it's a better option.

“A lot of these kids either were smoking or were going to start or running down that path and they headed back this direction,” said Johnson.

This isn't the first time the Nebraska legislature placed regulations on the vaping industry. In 2014 senators passed a law to make it illegal to sell vapor products to Nebraskans under the age of 18.

Johnson says the senators should look at the consequences of this bill before voting on it.

“I can guarantee you a lot of those people are not going to quit, they are going to find a way to keep going and their alternative is not going to be as good as the legal one that's provided,” said Johnson.

As far as Johnson’s bottom line, he doesn't think, if passed, the bill would hurt business too much.

The sponsor of this bill, Sen. Riepe is also the newly elected chair of the Health and Human Services committee.