BISMARCK, North Dakota — Bismarck is the latest city in North Dakota to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, and Williston is likely not far behind.
The Bismarck City Commission this week banned selling or providing e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18, with violators facing a $500 fine, according to The Bismarck Tribune. The ordinance allows for a $70 fine against minors caught using e-cigarettes.
E-cigarette inhalers are an odorless, vapor-emitting substitute for tobacco cigarettes. Advocates say they can help smokers quit tobacco, but some health advocates believe the inhalers can get people hooked on nicotine just like cigarettes.
The federal government does not yet regulate e-cigarettes, though several states including North Dakota have expanded indoor smoking bans to include them.
"It's time to close this loophole," Valerie Schaff, a board member of the Bismarck Tobacco Free Coalition, said of the ability of minors to access e-cigarettes.
Commissioners in Williston this week gave initial approval to an ordinance similar to Bismarck's and Fargo's, the Williston Herald reported. Fargo leaders decided to make the move late last year.
"We want to protect the youth," said Chelsea Bryant, tobacco prevention specialist with the Upper Missouri District Health Unit in Williston. "(E-cigarettes) might not be as bad as real conventional cigarettes, but they are not regulated and much is unknown about them."