Electronic cigarettes and vape pens continue to wade into murky waters. Yesterday, officials in Sacramento met to discuss outlawing the online sale of e-cigarette products in California. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) is spearheading the bill, and points to protecting our children as the reason for the lockdown. Dickinson believes that the anonymity of the Internet makes it much easier for kids under 18 to get a hold of vape pens, whether they're for nicotine or marijuana.
This fear has been, par for the course, overplayed by the mainstream media. Yesterday, KCBS-TV Channel 2 ran a story from an RSM high school about the insanely high rate at which high schoolers, and even middle schoolers, are starting to use vape pens. Shannon Hough-Duncan, a teacher at the Orange Unified School District agreed with CBS's reporting that many students "are very into it" and have been able to get away with it, but "it's just because there are no laws or rules yet." However, Mindi Combs, a creative writing teacher at the Orange County High School of the Arts said she had "no experience" with vape pens in the classroom, and Holly Vance, a teacher at La Serna High School, commented that e-cigarettes simply aren't allowed on her campus.
The problem with this sudden scare over e-cigarettes and children is the misinformation that's turning a mole hill into a mountain. The CBS article quoted a mother who believed that cigarette and vape companies are targeting young users. Go into any vape shop, talk to any liquid maker, and no one has ANY desire to sell their product to minors. E-cigarettes were essentially created as a cessation device, and even though the culture has blown up beyond that, there's no overarching desire to bring the youngins' into the community. In our print news story about the rise of e-cigarettes, we found that many vape companies want to keep their products out of the hands of minors and support some level of regulation.
Politicians' fear points to the bigger question of who should be policing teenagers. Perhaps it ought to be parents' responsibility to monitor what their kids order on the Internet; after all, most kids are using their credit cards to do so. This bill is more likely to hurt small businesses and take away a viable market where of-age vapers can order items at competitive prices. If teenagers can't buy something online, they'll find another way–they always have.