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Vapor sales to minors in contention

Profile image for By Caitlyn Jones
By Caitlyn Jones

Tim Ruggiero became concerned when his wife found a lighter in the pocket of their daughter’s jeans.

Thinking the 15-year-old had been smoking cigarettes, the Pilot Point resident searched her backpack. It wasn’t a pack of Marlboros he found. It was a refillable electronic cigarette with the logo of Denton shop Vape N’ Vapor that his daughter said she purchased herself.

When Ruggiero went to the Denton police station to file a complaint, he was disheartened to learn that nothing could be done because an ordinance prohibiting sales to minors hasn’t gone into effect yet.

“The infuriating part for me is that this might not even be anything illegal,” Ruggiero said. “I felt like I was the 100th guy [police] talked to that day about it.”

Texas is one of nine states allowing the sale of vapor products to those younger than 18, but that may soon change as cities look at restricting sales and as a bill banning sales to minors statewide awaits the governor’s signature.

Jay Ali, the manager of Vape N’ Vapor, said he doesn’t sell to minors in his shop.

“Even if the law does allow it, our employees are trained to check IDs,” he said. “If the girl got it from our shop, she probably got an older friend to buy it for her.”

In contrast to tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine cartridge to a boiling point and emit vapor when inhaled, hence the term “vaping.” Proponents of e-cigarettes often cite the benefits of vaping, saying that since no tobacco is burned, the user doesn’t get the harmful effects of tar and carbon monoxide. Some even advocate using e-cigarettes as a method to quit smoking tobacco products.

Ruggiero remains skeptical, especially with candy-flavored liquids that appeal to younger palates, he said.

“Scores of kids are going to be hooked on nicotine because of this,” he said.

The Denton City Council passed a new smoking ordinance on April 21 that includes a ban on the sale of vapor products to minors. The ordinance doesn’t go into effect until Aug. 21, leaving disciplinary action to parents, not law enforcement.

“We hear more about vaping on the school campuses,” Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer said. “It’s kind of a sore subject for us because most parents frown on their kids using them.”

On the state level, the House and the Senate have passed a proposed ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors, as well as possession of the devices by Texans under 18. It’s been sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, whose signature would make it law.

“Businesses need to do the right thing here,” Ruggiero said. “Adults can do whatever they please but when we’re talking about kids, we have a moral responsibility.”