DENVER (AP) – Alarmed that current tobacco law doesn’t adequately keep nicotine out of the hands of kids, a Colorado Senate committee voted Wednesday to expand the definition of tobacco products that are off-limits to minors.

The bill, approved 5-2 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, would ban any devices or products that deliver nicotine, not just devices that deliver tobacco. Colorado already bans electronic cigarettes for minors, though Democratic sponsors say the law needs further clarification to ban any nicotine-delivery device.

“This bill would assist local governments in keeping all nicotine devices out of the hands of minors,” said Donna Viverette of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials.

But the bill prompted a lively debate because the nicotine candies and mints handed out to lawmakers are already illegal to sell to minors. Republicans wondered how the legal clarification would make a difference.

“This bill, seems to me, is already taken care of,” said Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa.

But Democrats who favored the bill said the clarification is needed to anticipate new products that might deliver nicotine but not tobacco.

“We need to shed more light on this issue and make it clear, because I think it is not clear to the American public,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Black Hawk.

Smoking cessation products would still be allowed, as long as the gums or patches have federal approval for use as cessation aids. Still, Republicans fretted that the bill could inadvertently ban innocuous items, such as a soda can modified by teenagers to use as a smoking device.

“Does this open up a can of worms?” said Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs.

A lobbyist for convenience stores backed the measure, saying it could help prevent confusion by retailers.

“It’s very easy to determine what a tobacco product is. It’s a lot harder to determine what a nicotine-delivery product is,” said Grier Bailey of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association.

The bill now awaits a vote by the full Senate.

LINK: Senate Bill 18

– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer

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