LINCOLN — The idea of keeping minors from buying and using electronic cigarettes drew little opposition at a hearing Monday afternoon.

But a few testifiers on the bill (LB861), offered by Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, had suggestions for changes to definitions and other aspects of the measure.

Speciality stores that sell e-cigarettes already do not sell to minors, even those with no nicotine in the juice, several store representatives said.

Ann Elliott of Lincoln told the committee that prior to November 2012 she had been a cigarette smoker for more than 30 years, and had made numerous attempts to stop, using gums, patches and medications.

She tried the electronic cigarettes and for more than a year she has been smoke free and reducing her nicotine level slowly.

She supports restrictions for minors. But as a customer of the e-cigarette specialty shops she would like to see the in-store self-service displays remain an option, rather than forcing the products behind a counter or in a secured case.

Being able to test and sample the products at a store helped her to choose which products were most helpful to her, she said. She would not want to see that restricted in those specialty shops.

"Being able to go actually into a brick and mortar store and try these products generates revenue for the small businesses in town and keeps revenue in our state," Elliott said.

David Holmquist, who testified on behalf of the American Cancer Society, had suggestions for changes. He said the cancer society supported FDA regulation of all electronic smoking devices, including restricting sales to minors.

It's likely e-cigarettes, as now known, are less harmful than cigarettes, but there are concerns they could create new tobacco users and reverse efforts to make smoking socially unacceptable, he said.

More research is needed to determine the safety of e-cigarettes, especially long-term research. They are not recommended as a smoking cessation tool. And the cancer society is concerned with any legislation that does not define electronic smoking devices as tobacco products, he said.

"Nebraska should take a cautious approach to changing existing law that could be in conflict with rulings issued by the FDA," Holmquist said.


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