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“Vapor” Tobacco Products: What are they and are they legal?

If you have been out in Greensboro recently, you have probably noticed several stores, new and old, selling a product labeled “vapors.” Thus questions have been raised by many as to what these vapors are and whether these are illegal. The short answer is that they are a new form of tobacco products and they are legal, with a few exceptions of course.

According to North Carolina General Statute § 14-313, “vapor products” are --

Any noncombustible product that employs a mechanical heating element, battery, or electronic circuit regardless of shape or size and that can be used to heat a liquid nicotine solution contained in a vapor cartridge. The term includes an electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, and electronic pipe.

The Greensboro News & Record has posted several pictures of such vapor products, both the electronic part and the liquid nicotine solution which combine to create “vapor products” – you can view those pictures here.

As far as their legality, North Carolina law treats these vapor products the same as any other tobacco product in that they may only be used and purchased by individuals 18 years of age or older. Providing or selling these products to anyone under 18 years of age is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

You may have seen individuals using vapor products in restaurants and bars and for now, this behavior is legal (though individual restaurants and bars can of course enforce their own bans). This activity is legal because Chapter 130A, Article 23 of the North Carolina General Statutes – “Smoking Prohibited in Public Places and Places of Employment” – defines smoking as the “use or possession of a lighted cigarette, lighted pipe, or any other lighted tobacco product.” Vapor products are not “lighted” or on fire as with traditional products and therefore do not produce smoke; instead vapor products heat the liquid nicotine solution to the point at which the chemical product, nicotine, takes a gas form – thus producing vapor, not smoke. While these products will likely be made illegal to use in restaurants and bars, like “lighted” tobacco products, for now their use appears to be legal.


North Carolina General Statute § 14-313 – (http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_14/GS_14-313.html)

North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 130A, Article 23 – (http://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/byarticle/chapter_130A/article_23.html)

For more information, contact the Clifford Division of Clifford, Clendenin & O'hale.

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