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January 27, 2014 - 5:30pm
It would be illegal for Nebraskans under 18 to buy or use electronic cigarettes, under a bill heard in the Nebraska Legislature Monday. Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber is sponsoring the proposed age restriction on electronic cigarettes. Karpisek explained his rationale to the Legislature’s General Affairs Committee. “I just don’t feel that there’s been enough research on the e-cigs for minors to have them. I’m not saying that they’re worse or the same as cigarette smoke. I think they are a better alternative. And I want to help that whole progress. But let’s not let minors have ‘em,” he said. His proposal drew support from retailers like Tim Bowen of Plumes, a store in Omaha that sells electronic cigarettes. Bowen said it’s already store policy not to sell to minors. But he objected to a portion of the bill that would prevent e-cigs from being on open display and readily accessible to customers. Bowen said that would discourage new customers who want to try the vapor products, some of which contain nicotine, in the hopes of quitting smoking. “They walk in, they’re afraid. They don’t know. They know somebody that’s got one, it seems to have worked. They’re not sure of things like the nicotine content. It’s very new. It’s a new technology. So we put it out there in front of them. We take the mystique away from them,” he said. David Holmquist of the American Cancer Society was neutral on the bill. He said while there’s anecdotal evidence that vaping – as it’s called -helps some people quit smoking, scientific evidence is lacking. And Holmquist said he’s worried that vaping even juices that don’t contain nicotine could lead young people to tobacco. “Our concern with a non-nicotine vaping product in the hands of a 16 year old is that it gives them the sense of having smoked or the feel of having smoked. So we want to make sure that the social aspects of smoking for kids, because its cinnamon or raspberry or some otter flavor doesn’t conflict with our work to try to keep them from smoking a tobacco product,” he said. Holmquist says he hope the federal Food and Drug Administration comes out with regulations on electronic cigarettes soon. Also on Monday, lawmakers considered a bill that would allow candidates who tie in primary elections to run in the general election ballot as a write-in. Currently, ties are resolved by chance – usually by flipping a coin or drawing cards – and the “loser” is not allowed to run as a write-in – that is, votes cast for that candidate would not be counted. Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft said Paul Richards, a candidate for the Burt County board, was prevented from running as a write-in after tying in the Democratic primary and losing a coin flip in 2012. She said the current law is unfair to a candidate who has demonstrated support. “A Republican could write in, or a Democrat could write in, or an independent could write in. But the person who lost by a draw of the straw, flip of the coin cannot,” she said. Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad asked whether tie races shouldn’t be resolved by runoff elections, but Brasch said that would be expensive for cash-strapped counties. Her proposal to let people run as write ins would apply only to races for county, city, village or school board offices. Some senators, including Jim Scheer of Norfolk, said the principle should apply more broadly. “I think we need to take a much broader view of what we’re trying to accomplish with this legislation – be statesmen, be legislators, not being exclusive to what happened in this instance or in this isolated case. This is state policy,” he said. Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis offered an amendment to expand Brasch’s bill to cover all elected offices. Lawmakers adjourned for the day before reaching a vote.