Local officials worried about youth, e-cigs

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- According to the Department of Public Health, the risks of electronic cigarettes are not yet fully understood.

That has some officials worried that youth can legally purchase them. "We know that smokeless does not mean safe," said Marilyn Carter, the director of Douglas County Public Health. "Preliminary testing has shown that e-cigarettes contain chemicals and toxins that have caused birth defects."

Lack of regulation allows minors to buy e-cigs because they contain nicotine, but no tobacco. "We're really concerned that the lack of regulation means that kids have access to these products," Carter said.

Some are afraid this is a gateway to getting minors hooked on regular cigarettes.

Tim Freeman, a republican state representative, agrees. "Because there's no regulation, youth can buy the electronic cigarette and become addicted to nicotine prior to being 18," he said.

Two House bills dealing with regulations failed to make it to a vote in the Oregon legislature.

One would have banned the sale of e-cigs to minors. The other would have added the product to the state's indoor smoking ban.

Freeman says the ideas may make it back into the spotlight. "As long as the legislature is in session, there's always an opportunity to introduce some type of regulation on electronic cigarettes," he said.

For now, the bills are headed for an interim work group and will be re-visited next year.