Lawmakers seek to close loophole enabling minors to buy nicotine

Austin Baird

JUNEAU -- Lawmakers are working to close a loophole that could make it possible for underage Alaskans to purchase products containing nicotine.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, told the Senate Health and Social Services Committee that tobacco companies are testing products like mints, toothpicks, hand sanitizing gels and water that all contain nicotine. He said nicotine itself is not captured by federal laws regulating use of tobacco and tobacco cessation products.

"The problem is that with tobacco, we're all familiar with health problems from tobacco use," Seaton told the committee. "But nicotine is the addictive part, and that's our problem now."

Alaska is one of four states to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone younger than 19, and Seaton's proposal in HB224 is to put the same restriction on products containing nicotine.

Seaton said sales of the items are being tested in a few markets and have not often shown up in Alaska. His bill is an attempt to preempt a problem from arising in the future.

The bill passed the House last year and was unanimously moved through committee Wednesday. The last hurdle before a floor vote is the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Associated Press