Thanks to a vote by the Alaskan House Rules Committee, vaporizers will not be affected by new tobacco control bill in the state
It seems like every week that we hear a new story about a state or local legislator deciding to regulate e-cigarettes under the same rules as combustible cigarettes. This in spite of a growing number of doctors and public health experts who acknowledge the extreme harm reduction value of vaping. Politicians back programs and campaigns that ultimately reduce the number of smokers giving vaping a shot by co-opting the idea that smoking and vaping are essentially the same. With this in mind, it’s impressive to see a legislator decide to make the right call for once and acknowledge that vaping and smoking should be handled differently. But this is exactly what happened recently when the Alaskan House Rules Committee voted to alter a proposed bill that would have placed vaporizers under the jurisdiction of tobacco control laws.
Doing What’s Right
Last year the Alaska Senate passed a new law that would ban vaping under the same rules as smoking. As it was written, it would have meant a considerable hurdle for small vaping manufacturers and shops to deal with when selling their products. Sadly, that’s become the norm, as most legislators would rather take the easy way out than have to do the extra work to regulate both products separately. But Alaska has become a unique, but repeatable case, as forced gridlock all year from supporters has forced the hand of the government to go over the evidence more in-depth.
That was what ultimately triggered the change of heart from the committee. Many of the members took the opportunity to do more research about what we know the pros and cons of vaping. The chairperson of the committee, Gabrielle LeDoux, referenced a comprehensive analysis from last year that looked at thousands of studies to separate fact from fiction. After going through the report herself, Rep. LeDoux was willing to acknowledge the potential of vaping as a harm reduction tool. But she remained cautious, wanting to wait for more evidence before declaring any facts.
One particularly relevant portion of the cited report was a quote about the potential of vaping in the long term. “A diverse class of alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS) has recently been developed that do not combust tobacco and are substantially less harmful than cigarettes. ANDS have the potential to disrupt the 120-year dominance of the cigarette and challenge the field on how the tobacco pandemic could be reversed if nicotine is decoupled from lethal inhaled smoke.”
As you’re probably well aware, this sort of thought process from politicians is far from ordinary. Vaping bans are becoming almost as normal as the smoking bans that preceded them. Florida is the battleground for another vaping rights fight, where the future of e-cigarettes in the state will be decided this fall by voters. This became a genuine possibility after the Florida Constitutional Revision Committee voted 33-3 to pass the potential vaping ban to the public.
Just in case it wasn’t already facing a fierce battle to not become law on its own, the committee also decided to join the vaping ban at the hip with an offshore drilling ban. This means that either both will be banned, or neither will. Neither industry is particularly happy about their future being tied to another unpopular activity. But the committee assured the press that these two seemingly distinct bans should be run together as a “clean air, clean water” package deal. According to experts, the dual ban is likely to become law, which would see vaping equated with the much more dangerous habit of smoking. By implying these activities have similar levels of risk, public health officials are only limiting the number of smokers who even try.
The primary issue with the majority of these vaping bans is what they’re telegraphing to the public. If all you’re doing is treating vaping like another form of tobacco with grave dangers, people are going to believe that vaping and smoking are the same. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. As a growing number of doctors would tell you, if you’re having trouble quitting cigarettes and would like to reduce your exposure to harm, vaping could be the answer. But at the same time, it’s not something that ought to be picked up by non-smokers looking for a harmless habit.
What’s worse is that its Big Tobacco that ultimately ends up benefiting from these overly simplistic vaping bans. These giant conglomerates are very used to and equipped to deal with harsh regulations and taxes, unlike the small businesses that make up a vast majority of the vaping industry. These Big Tobacco companies are planning on taking over the vaping market in the very near future. Philip Morris International and others have acknowledged that they’ll eventually stop selling cigarettes, but they still plan on continued existence. If you’re wondering how that’s possible, it’s evident their central plan is to introduce their own line of smokeless devices. They’ve already started in other countries, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their way to America. If we cripple the strong independent vaping industry right before these tobacco companies make their move, we mine as well be handing them control of the industry on a silver platter.
Do you think it’s fair to regulate vaping as we do smoking? What do you think would be a reasonable compromise? Will Alaska help other states take similar stands? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.