Call it the 21st Century version of 'Joe Camel.'
Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports that an effort is gaining steam at City Hall to ban the sale of those so called 'e-cigs' to kids under the age of 18.
The push is being made by northwest side Councilman Cris Medina, who says the 'liquid nicotine' which is the active ingredient in many, but not all, electronic cigarettes.
"As a father, I am deeply concerned that adolescent children can freely purchase electronic cigarettes in San Antonio," Medina said. "When we envision our kids stopping at a corner store after school we picture them getting bubble gun, not bubble gun flavored liquid nicotine."
Medina is pushing for Council approval of 'citywide restrictions on the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and the possession of electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine by minors."
"This is a serious public health issue," Medina said. "Over the past few years, the number of children using e-cigarettes has grown exponentially and emergency room visits for children poisoned by nicotine has risen dramatically. The liquid nicotine cartridges are actually marketed with a skull and crossbones indicating that the contents are poisonous. Children’s should not have access to poison."
Medina says much liquid nicotine is manufactured in China, and is actually combined with additives like bubble gun, chocolate, cola, and cherry specifically to make it more attractive to children, similar to the use of the cartoon character 'Joe Camel' to sell tobacco cigarettes to children in the 1990s.
Medina's claims appear to be backed up by research done by federal regulatory officials.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control in April of 2014 shows that 'although e-cigarettes comprise less than 2 percent of all tobacco-related sales, they now account for more than 40 percent of poison center calls.'
"More than half of the calls involved children younger than 5 years old," the report said. "Most of these emergencies are linked to the liquid nicotine within the e-cigs."
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) this week introduced a measure to restrict the sale of liquid nicotine to minors nationally.
Medina praised e-cig and so called 'vaping' stores in San Antonio, most of which already refuse to sell their product to children.
"We are very fortunate to have many good corporate citizens who are already taking the basic steps of limiting sales to minors and I appreciate their efforts," Medina said. "We are not saying retailers cannot sell this product, only that they cannot sell it to 10 year old kids coming home from soccer practice."