If you receive public assistance money, you can use it to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products. You can also buy these products using an EPPICard, which is used to transmit child support payments from one parent to another. Some lawmakers say both of these instances are abuse.

In a 13 7 decision the House Health Committee voted to pass a bill that would prohibit people from using EBT and EPPICards to purchase tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia.

A spokesperson with the Department of Public Welfare explained that two different types of funding go to EBT cards. One type, is food stamps or SNAP benefits. The other is Public Assistance. Purchasing tobacco and other tobacco paraphernalia is already banned with Food Stamp/SNAP benefits.

What is currently allowed, at point of sale, is using public assistance funds to purchase cigarettes, tobacco products and tobacco paraphernalia.

Some lawmakers hope to change this.

“The taxpayers of Pennsylvania are going to help you when you are down and out. But, it’s not appropriate to take advantage of taxpayers and purchase tobacco with that money,” said the prime sponsor of the bill, Representative Mike Reese, (R) 59th District.

Representative Florindo Fabrizio (D) 2nd District voted against the bill because of the inclusion of EPPICards. Rep. Fabrizio said child support is a private matter that the government should not get involved in. “We were informed EPPIcards were involved in this, they have nothing to do with public funding. It’s from one parent to another,” said Rep. Fabrizio.

Committee members also passed an amendment that would ban the use of EBT and EPPICards at any entity licensed by the Liquor Control Board or the Gaming Control Board. According to a Department of Public Welfare spokesperson it is already prohibited to purchase alcohol. This would now add places such as bars, casinos and strip clubs.

“It is well intentioned. Not practical. I’ll be a no vote,” said Rep. Michael O’Brien (D) 175th District. “It is not enforceable. There is nothing here that I see that prevents a recipient from going around the corner and taking cash out and going to the liquor store,” said Rep. O’Brien.

“You’re right,” said Rep. Reese. “There absolutely is a loophole with the ability to take cash out at an ATM machine. I have another bill dealing with that. But this is a first step.”

Now the bill will move to the Full House for consideration.

More than 16 million children live in states where they can buy e-cigarettes legally

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Forty states have enacted laws prohibiting the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), including e cigarettes, to minors, but 10 states and the District of Columbia still permit such sales, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in today s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

More than 16 million children aged 17 and under reside in states not covered by these laws. The latest data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed 4.5 percent of all high school students and 1.1 percent of all middle school students had used e cigarettes within the past 30 days in 2013.

We know e cigarettes are not safe for youth, said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC s Office on Smoking and Health. While ENDS may have the potential to benefit established adult smokers if used as a complete substitute for all smoked tobacco products, ENDS should not be used by youth and adult non tobacco users because of the harmful effects of nicotine and other risk exposures, as well as the risk for progression to other forms of tobacco use.

While 26 states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive smoke free laws that prevent smoking in restaurants, worksites, and bars, only three of those states also prohibit ENDS use indoors New Jersey, North Dakota, and Utah. Therefore more than 300 million Americans, including 70 million children, live in states in which non users of these products can be involuntarily exposed to either secondhand smoke from cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products or ENDS aerosol. Since 2012, no states have enacted comprehensive smoke free laws or laws prohibiting public indoor ENDS use. These laws could help prevent renormalization of tobacco use because youth are particularly susceptible to visual cues to use tobacco.

ENDS aerosol is not harmless water vapor it can contain nicotine and other toxins, said Brian King, Ph.D., senior scientific advisor in CDC s Office on Smoking and Health. Exposure to nicotine can harm adolescent brain development and can be toxic to fetuses. The standard for protecting the health of children and bystanders should be clean air, free of toxic secondhand smoke as well as ENDS aerosol.

ENDS minor sales laws have increased in recent years of the 40 states with minor sales restrictions, 12 laws became effective in 2013 and 16 thus far in 2014. This surge may be partly attributable to efforts by the tobacco industry, which has actively advocated for state laws prohibiting sales to minors. This is of concern because the 2012 Surgeon General s Report found that industry supported youth access bills have contained provisions that undermined efforts to prevent youth from starting to use tobacco products, such as local preemption of stricter policies and weak enforcement requirements.

The Surgeon General has concluded that nicotine exposure during adolescence may have lasting adverse consequences for brain development, and that nicotine adversely affects maternal and fetal health during pregnancy, contributing to multiple outcomes such as preterm delivery and stillbirth.

Although e cigarettes have been marketed as smoking cessation aids, there is currently no conclusive scientific evidence that e cigarettes promote successful long term quitting. However, there are proven adult cessation strategies and treatments, including counseling and FDA approved cessation medications.

The 2012 Surgeon General s Report found that about 90 percent of all smokers first experiment as teens and that about three of every four teen smokers become adult smokers even if they plan to quit in a few years. To learn more about quitting and preventing children from using tobacco, visit