Should Stores Be Allowed to Sell E-Cigarettes to Kids?

Should kids be able to buy e-cigarettes, the electronic devices that mimic smoking but contain no harmful chemicals? That’s the question being asked in British Columbia, where an 11-year-old boy was able to purchase an e-cigarette at a local convenience store.

Joe Braico is the boy’s father. He says his son proudly showed him the e-cigarette after making the purchase. “He showed me, he was trying to blow smoke rings with the thing. I was shocked,” Braico said.

A stunned Braico reportedly then took the e-cigarette back to the store, a Lottery Ticket Centre located in Tsawwassen (which is located just south of Vancouver). Braico says he told the store manager that e-cigarattes “are not toys.”

(E-cigarettes cost about $10 each. They run on a battery and produce vapour that has a distinct flavour, but contain no nicotine, tar, or other dangerous substances.)

Initially, the store’s manager, Jasper Lee, said he didn’t see the difference between the (technically) harmless e-cigarette and a candy cigar. However, Lee did apologize when he realized how upset Braico was about the matter.

Legally-speaking, Lee did nothing wrong. British Columbia’s medical health officer, Perry Kendall, says that, at the moment, there are no rules barring retailers from selling e-cigarettes to minors.

“This is an unregulated product,” Kendall said. “There’s a danger they become attractive to younger people.”

Given that e-cigarette users can purchase vapour flavours that might appeal to kids — like “grape sensation” and “cherry bomb” — there is concern that such a product could help glamourize smoking.

That’s why many B.C. school boards have banned e-cigarettes from school grounds.

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