State Officials Look to Curb Underage Smoking - 8 News NOW

State Officials Look to Curb Underage Smoking

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E-cigarettes are gaining in popularity E-cigarettes are gaining in popularity

LAS VEGAS - According to a new report, 90 percent of smokers started the habit before they turned 18. A new Nevada law targets underage tobacco users.

It's against the law in Nevada for anyone under 18 to buy a tobacco product, but it's not against the law for minors to use tobacco products.

In June, Governor Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 177 into law. The law grants county commissions in Nevada authority to adopt ordinances that prohibit minors from using tobacco products.

The law also gives county commissioners authority to determine penalties for violators of the law. Clark County officials say they decided not to pursue penalties, because they didn't want to put kids in the justice system for smoking.

The only enforcement in place in Clark County falls the under Clark County School District. CCSD bans smoking anywhere on campus. It doesn't matter if you are in a student's car, at the football or baseball field or even in the bathroom.

The first offense is a warning. Students are searched, tobacco items are taken and the student is written up. Chaparral High School Principal David Wilson described the procedure following a second violation.

"The second time we have an issue, we're going to follow the same procedures except the parent will be called in to have a conversation with the student with an understanding that the consequences will be significantly more severe if the student continues with those behaviors," he said.

Wilson says a student would face suspension for the third offense. With so many other threats facing schools these days (i.e., drugs, gangs, bullies), Wilson admits educators don't actively hunt for smokers.

So, students should take personal responsibility and heed the warnings about the effects of nicotine and tar.

One popular alternative is electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes. A growing number of minors are finding ways to buy e-cigarettes.

Pink Spot Vapors owner Penn Elletson says he prohibits minors from buying e-cigarettes at his store. Still, he says business is booming. One year ago, Elletson said he had five employees and one location. Today, he has 50 employees between two stores.

"It addresses the triggers of smoking. It's the patch, the gum, all the other things that give you nicotine, which is the only thing your body craves in a cigarette, but it also gives you the hand in mouth oral fixation, the vapor production, the throat hit, all the triggers that go along with smoking," he said.

An electronic cigarette includes four pieces: a container, a lithium ion battery, a flavored vapor and a mouth piece. Some e-cigarettes release nicotine, while others release flavored vapors. The user can control the output level.

Because the CDC shows underage smokers are increasingly using the devices, 40 attorneys general - including Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto - are urging the federal government to regulate e-cigarettes.

The FDA currently lacks regulatory authority over e-cigarettes unless the products claim to offer therapeutic benefits.

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