Dozens of high school students from across Vermont descended on the Statehouse Tuesday to urge lawmakers to place new restrictions on the sale and use of electronic cigarettes.
The students are part of an organization called "Our Voices Xposed" and they highlighted a potential health crisis associated with the use of e-cigarettes. These are devises that don't contain tobacco but instead deliver nicotine through a vaporized process.
A group of students from Enosburg High School discussed the problem with these products.
Kendall Nichols is a sophomore who is concerned that a recent survey showed that 30 percent of high school students have tried e-cigarettes and 15 percent use them on a regular basis.
"We've really noticed that youth are being impacted by e-cigarettes,” Nichols explains. “And we want to make sure that every youth gets to live a really healthy lifestyle."
Kyla Perry is also a sophomore. She says many e-cigarette products are targeted directly at young people.
“They're being advertised with flavors and colors that youth and teens are attracted to,” says Perry. “And we feel like that doesn't give them a fair chance to have a healthy lifestyle if they make a bad decision in their youth."
Ashley Tardiff is a junior. She wants to be certain that young people understand the negative health effects of e-cigarettes.
“Most people don't know about the harmful agents in e-cigarettes,” Tardiff says. “They think that the vapor is just water vapor when in reality it is an aerosol that contains metals and cancer causing agents and nicotine levels that are extraordinarily high."
Underhill Rep. Bill Frank is the lead sponsor of a bill that defines an e-cigarette as "a tobacco substitute." He wants all of the restrictions on the sale of tobacco products to apply to e-cigarettes.
This includes placing these products behind the counter at stores, not selling them to anyone under 18, and banning their use in any location where tobacco is prohibited.
“They do contain nicotine,” Frank says. “I mean that's the whole purpose of them. And so I contend that if you get hooked on nicotine it's very likely that you might start using tobacco products also."
Jim Harrison is the executive director of the Vermont Retail Association. He says his group generally supports the new restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes but wants to further study the issue.