By  //  February 7, 2014

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TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – A measure to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors received unanimous backing from the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday, but the issue continues to drag in the House.

Lizbeth Benacquisto
Lizbeth Benacquisto

The proposal (SB 224) by Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, would add nicotine dispensing devices, but not nicotine patches, to the state’s prohibition on the sale of tobacco products to people under age 18.

The bill also would make it illegal for minors to possess electronic cigarettes and associated products. The electronic cigarettes, which dispense nicotine through a vaporizer, are viewed by some as more acceptable than smoking.

But critics, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, argue that e-cigarettes with fruit and candy flavors like bubble gum and banana are likely to appeal to youth.

Pam Bondi
Pam Bondi

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1.8 million middle and high school students had used e-cigarettes in 2012, more than double the previous year. State and federal officials are grappling with whether the products, now unregulated, are a step in helping people quit smoking or serve as a gateway to nicotine addiction.

While the Senate proposal now has the support of three committees, the House companion (HB 153) was removed from the agenda prior to making its first committee appearance on Tuesday.

A House Business and Professional Regulation staff member said the bill was pulled because House leaders are weighing how to handle the e-cigarette proposal and another measure (HB 169) that would prohibit the sale of alternative nicotine products, including electronic cigarettes, to minors.