In 2007, the New Mexico Legislature joined a growing list of states that banned smoking in almost all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
Rarely has a public health issue moved as quickly and decisively as the effort to protect workers from the adverse impacts of second-hand smoke. Seemingly overnight, smokers were banished to outside the building when needing to light up.
It's probably no surprise that some enterprising entrepreneur looked to cash in on this new reality of American life, and so the e-cigarette was developed and rushed to market. The devices include a heating element to vaporize a liquid solution, often containing nicotine.
The e-cigarettes allow for the sensation of smoking, but instead of inhaling and then exhaling a toxic mix of smoke into the air, the user exhales vapor.
For adult smokers who are either looking for ways to quit or simply need a quick puff without stepping outside, the e-cigarette provides a viable alternative.
But, like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not for children. Unfortunately, they do not now fall under the same classification as regular cigarettes under state or federal law.
Legislation introduced this year in the New Mexico Legislature would fix that. Senate Bill 232 would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and prohibit them from possessing the product on school grounds or at any school-sponsored event.
“Addictive nicotine is addictive, no matter what form it takes, and the sale of e-cigarettes to minors should be banned, just as nicotine-laced tobacco is prohibited for minors,” said the bill's sponsor, John Ryan, R-Albuquerque.
Like many new products, the science behind the safety of e-cigarettes has lagged behind the research and development done to get the product to market. E-cigarettes are now a $1.5 billion industry, according to Business Week, and one the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet moved to regulate.
Expect that to change soon, although what form those regulations take remains to be seen.
Locally, many shops that sell e-cigarettes have taken the voluntary step of checking IDs and refusing sales to those under 18. We think that is the conscientious thing to do, and applaud them for it.
But we also recognize that not all businesses will be as responsible.
Adults can make up their own minds as to the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes. But, we think the state has an obligation to protect children, and it should ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.