HARRISBURG - An effort to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors in Pennsylvania is underway in the Senate.

The Judiciary Committee approved enabling legislation last week following a vote by the Pennsylvania Medical Society urging a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and a report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling attention to their increasing use by teenagers. E-cigarettes are an electronic battery-powered device that produces a vapor containing nicotine and artificial flavors. They can be marketed under a variety of terms such as electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo and electronic pipe.

"We don't need to answer every question about these devices," said Sen. Tim Solobay, D-46, Canonsburg, the bill sponsor. "We need to make sure they don't get into the hands of minors."

His bill would expand the scope of the state law that bans the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to minors by adding the term "alternative nicotine product" to its provisions. This term would include any cartridge or component of an electronic cigarette.

Solobay said that while adults may use electronic cigarettes as a way to quit using more harmful tobacco products, teens may find that using them leads to smoking.

"It's important that we move quickly to address new trends in the consumer marketplace," he said.

Delegates at a Pennsylvania Medical Society meeting in October urged state lawmakers to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and schools to include the potential dangers of electronic cigarettes in their tobacco education programs.

"They may be odorless and give the appearance of being less harmful, but beyond that we just don't know the impact that the vapors have on the user and others," said medical society president Bruce A. MacLeod, M.D. "It may be best for now to err on the side of caution while researchers investigate."

He said many of the marketing materials for electronic cigarettes appear to be geared to younger individuals.

The CDC report in September said 160,000 teens who never smoked cigarettes used electronic cigarettes in 2012.

One tobacco company includes an underage sales policy for e-cigarettes on its website. Nu Mark which produces Mark Ten e-cigarettes is a subsidiary of Richmond-based Altria. Nu Mark said its products should only be sold to adults and not be merchandised as a self-service item.