New Year, New Restrictions

E-Cig sales to minors banned in N.Y.; State may negate Omaha tobacco tax hike

ALBANY, N.Y. & OMAHA, Neb. -- With the New Year comes new laws in New York State and Omaha, Neb., affecting the tobacco retailing.

In New York, a new state laws banning sales of electronic cigarettes to minors kicks in Tuesday, Jan. 1.

Initially marketed as a cheap, safe way to help smokers quit or to get around restrictive smoking bans, electronic cigarettes burned into the mainstream in 2012, according to a YNN report. With no flames, no ash and no second-hand smoke, "you can smoke in restaurants," Mike Savino, a pack-a-day smoker who has tried e-cigs, told the news site. "You really don't want to annoy people; it's odorless. It really does help out a lot if you're trying to quit."

Critics, however, say flavored e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction. In turn, New York banned the sale to minors younger than 18, beginning Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, smokers in Omaha, Neb., will pay more to light up in 2013. A 3% occupation tax on cigarette sales goes into effect Jan. 1. Although a late-arriving state effort could torpedo the bill.

The new tax is meant to raise roughly $35 million for the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s $370-million cancer complex, according to a 6News report.

However, a Nebraska state senator said this week he will introduce legislation that would either change or kill the city's new tax on tobacco products. Omaha Sen. Bob Krist plans to introduce a bill once lawmakers convene.

Krist sent a letter to Omaha City Council President Tom Mulligan this week to inform him about the bill and to ask that the city hold off on implementing the tax until July 2013.

The City Council approved a scaled-down version of the original tax proposal, which was sitting at 7%. The council expects to raise that $35 million over the next decade.