The city appears poised to be the latest community to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under 18.
Police Chief Jimmy Perdue proposed the ban at a recent City Council workshop because of the potential health risks of the devices, which he said are widely available in North Richland Hills. No vote was taken.
“The stores that we have made contact with are basically, if you have the money, they’ll sell it to you,” Perdue said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re wanting to have restrictions.”
Council members told city officials to go forward with a formal proposal that the council can vote on at an upcoming regular meeting. Violators of the proposed rule would be fined up to $500.
Bedford, Flower Mound and Watauga are among the Texas cities that have banned the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Perdue said he did not want North Richland Hills to be an island where minors come to buy them.
Electronic cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to a user in the form of a vapor, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration. They are typically composed of a rechargeable, battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge that may contain nicotine or other chemicals, and an atomizer that, when heated, converts the contents of the cartridge into a vapor, the FDA reports. This vapor can be inhaled by the user.
The products are often made to look like cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Sometimes they are made to look like everyday items, such as pens and USB memory sticks, for people who want to use the product without being noticed, the FDA reports.
But the FDA has not evaluated electronic cigarettes for safety.
The American Cancer Society is urging the FDA to research electronic cigarettes’ health effects, said Joy Donovan Brandon, society director of media relations. Americans, meanwhile, should avoid electronic cigarettes, she said. Decades ago, she noted, smoking tobacco was considered safe.
She added that sometimes the ingredients are not labeled. “People don’t know what they’re ingesting,” Brandon said.
North Richland Hills expanded its smoking ordinance Jan. 1 to ban smoking in most public buildings, including inside restaurants, stores, offices and healthcare centers. Violators can be fined up to $2,000 per offense.
The previous ordinance, approved in 1987, banned smoking in schools; city-owned buildings and parks, except in paved parking areas; theaters and movie theaters; and businesses that serve the public, such as department stores, drugstores and supermarkets.
The ordinance allowed businesses to designate smoking areas, such as a lobby. Restaurants were required to provide well-ventilated areas for nonsmokers, but these areas needed only be separated from smoking areas by a minimum of four feet of floor space, and that was only “where feasible.”