Bill to raise vaping, smoking ages advanced

A bill intended to reduce the use of vaping products by minors advanced to select file April 30.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist35' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Dan Quick'>Sen. Dan Quick</a>
Sen. Dan Quick

LB149, as introduced by Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick, would increase the legal age from 18 to 21 for purchasing and possessing vapor products and flavored liquids containing nicotine.

A General Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 39-0, instead would raise the proposed legal age for vaping products to 19. It also would increase to 19 the legal age to buy tobacco products.

Under the bill, individuals younger than 19 who purchase or use vapor or tobacco products would be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor and an individual selling or providing vapor or tobacco products to those under 19 would be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.

The bill also would require retailers that sell vapor products to be licensed.

Young people often don’t realize how much nicotine is in vaping products, Quick said, which harms developing brains and is highly addictive. Quick said he introduced the bill after several school administrators in Grand Island reported increased vaping in schools there.

“This isn’t just happening in Grand Island, it is happening all across our state and across the United States,” he said.

Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson introduced an amendment to change the legal age for both products to 21. He said the change would give young people a chance to make better decisions.

Quick supported the amendment, saying a greater age gap between students and those who could supply them with nicotine could help stop the flow of vaping and tobacco products to teenagers.

The Friesen amendment failed 22-25; twenty-five votes were needed.

Sen. Tom Briese, chairperson of the General Affairs Committee, said raising the age to 19 would accomplish the bill’s primary goal of reducing vaping and smoking in schools.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha supported the bill, calling it a public safety issue.

“There has been evidence gathered that shows harm to a given group of young people,” Chambers said.

Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil said he supported the bill because many schools in his district have experienced a sharp rise in vaping by students.

LB149 initially sought to restrict indoor use of vapor products in the same manner as cigarettes under the Clean Indoor Air Act. An amendment, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, would have removed that provision.

“I consider this government overreach,” Wayne said. “All I’m asking for is the data to support [banning] indoor [use]. It isn’t there.”

Wayne’s amendment failed on a vote of 21-21. After a break in the debate, Quick filed an amendment that, like Wayne’s, would remove provisions related to the Clean Indoor Air Act. That amendment was adopted on a 30-0 vote.

Lawmakers then voted 40-0 to advance LB149 to select file.

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