AG Zoeller, state legislators to tackle rise in e-cigarette use among youth


INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and state legislators unveiled a comprehensive legislative proposal aimed at curbing the growing use of e-cigarettes by Indiana’s youth.

According to a recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014 was the first year that more teens smoked e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes, with 16 percent of high school students reporting regular use of the electronic nicotine product.

E-cigarettes are different from traditional cigarettes in that they do not burn tobacco. Instead, the product uses a battery to heat and vaporize highly addictive liquid nicotine derived from tobacco, which is then inhaled or “vaped.”  These liquid containers are disposable and come in more than 7,000 flavors, including those appealing to children such as bubble gum and gummy bears.

Because these products are new, largely unregulated and widely sold, Zoeller said they are being aggressively marketed to youth. He noted e-cigarettes have the innocuous appearance of a keychain or pen and the device can be used to inhale not only nicotine, but any number of drugs. There are reports of e-cigarettes being used to inhale liquid THC – the intoxicating substance found in marijuana – as well as synthetic drugs and other illegal substances.

“E-cigarettes have emerged as the latest drug-delivery device, and I only expect their use among teens to rise as users experiment with ‘vaping’ other dangerous or illegal substances,” Zoeller said. “These products can be cheap, easy to get and effectively disguise drug use because ‘vaping’ produces no smoke or smell. My goal is to get ahead of the curve unlike what happened with traditional tobacco products, and implement tools to reduce access to youth before we see more kids addicted to nicotine.”

The proposed legislation would include the following provisions:

  • Requiring “vape shops” that sell e-cigarettes to be licensed, giving the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission more authority to cite for violations of law, including selling the products to minors.
  • Taxing e-cigarettes similarly to traditional tobacco products so that they are less appealing to price-conscious youth.
  • Including e-cigarettes in Indiana’s statewide smoking ban.
  • Requiring that e-liquid containers be sold in child-resistant packaging to discourage accidental, potentially fatal poisoning through children consuming the liquid.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2012 centers nationwide received 460 calls regarding e-liquid exposure. In 2013, that number jumped to 1,542, and as of August 2014 the number was 2,724.

State Representative Ed Clere, R-New Albany, and State Representative Charlie Brown, D-Gary, plan to author and co-author the legislation on a bipartisan basis during the 2015 legislative session, which begins on Jan. 6.  State Senator Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, will sponsor the legislation in the Senate.

“E-cigarettes are a rapidly growing threat to public health, and this legislation addresses several major concerns. In addition to regulating the packaging, sale and use of e-cigarettes, it taxes them and devotes the revenue to tobacco prevention and cessation, which has been badly underfunded and must be a high priority if we are to be successful in improving Indiana’s overall health,” Rep. Clere said.

“It is essential that we provide safeguards to protect Hoosiers, especially children,” Rep. Brown said. “It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors, but we know that is happening. Just because e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco doesn’t mean they are not harmful. The vaporized liquid nicotine is still highly addictive. If that wasn’t bad enough, the New York Times found that the e-cigarette industry in Shenzhen, China, where 90 percent of the e-cigarettes are manufactured, has serious problems with quality control, so people inhaling the nicotine vapors are also frequently inhaling heavy metals and carcinogens. We need to take action on these devices as soon as possible.”

Representatives from several public health organizations also showed support for the legislation by attending the announcement, including Tobacco Free Indiana, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Indiana, Mental Health America Indiana, the American Association of Pediatrics and the IU Poison Center.

“We are pleased to see Indiana taking steps to ensure these unregulated and highly addictive products aren’t readily available to children. A primary concern with these products is the increase in youth use.  Policies that can deter youth from starting to use these products that could lead them to a path of addiction need to be supported,” Tobacco Free Indiana spokesperson Brianna Herndon said.

In 2014, Zoeller was nominated to serve as a board member of the national public health foundation Legacy, which aims to end tobacco use and teen smoking in the U.S.

“The state attorneys general have long served a role in protecting consumers when it comes to smoking and the risks to public health that nicotine products cause,” Zoeller said. “I am committed to reenergizing that role through my work on the Legacy Board and as the consumer-protection advocate within state government. Some of the health risks of e-cigarettes already are known and further study might discover others, and until all the medical risks are fully understood we need to do more to protect Indiana’s youth before they get hooked on this new insidious method of nicotine delivery.”

Zoeller has been active as co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Tobacco Committee in calling on the federal government to regulate e-cigarettes like they do traditional tobacco products. More information on this initiative can be found here: