A Look at the Current State of E-Cigarette Laws

ecig lawFor vaping advocates, the last several years have been somewhat maddening on the legislative front. Even as study after study seems to confirm these vaping products as safer alternatives to combustible cigarettes, legislators in many parts of the United States and around the world continue to obfuscate the issue. Rather than cheer these potentially life-saving devices, they instead obsess over potential harm that may be identified in the future, and the current lack of industry regulation, while proposing e-cigarette laws that could throttle this emerging industry.

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They ignore evidence that demonstrates these devices to be effective for smoking cessation, and instead move to pretend that non-tobacco e-cigs are tobacco – just so that they can regulate and tax vaping products, and thereby control their use. Meanwhile, tobacco users continue to die from the effects of tobacco. Throughout it all, legislators throughout the country continue to grapple with technology and science that they often fail to properly understand.

airport e-cigarette on planesMany of these proposed laws are almost unbelievably lacking in common sense rationale. Take Senate Amendment 3547, for example. That proposed legislative action includes as its primary sponsor Connecticut’s Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, and is designed to make it illegal for passengers on airplanes to bring their electronic cigarettes on board any plane. The proposal is written in a manner that would bar those devices from being carried on in carry-on baggage, as well as in any checked luggage.

Beyond the fact that the language of SA 3547 refers to vaping devices as “electronic smoking devices” – there is no “smoke” produced by these products, mind you – the entire rationale for the ban is laughably misguided. The idea is apparently to prevent the presence of lithium ion batteries on commercial passenger flights within the U.S. Did the good Senator intend to include laptops, cell phones, and other lithium battery devices in his ban? Not a chance.

Or consider the move by Greg Fischer, the Democrat mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, to convince the city’s Department of Public Health and Wellness to begin talks designed to broaden the area’s existing smoking ban so that it includes hookahs and e-cigs. His words on the subject reveal the type of disinformation that characterizes so much of the current anti-vaping propaganda:

ban ecigs“Smoking has devastated our community, causing pain, suffering and shortened lives, and saddled taxpayers with enormous healthcare costs,” the Mayor said.  “I believe broadening the ban to include e-cigarettes and hookah is a logical extension of the battle to save lives from the dangers of tobacco, and today I ask the Public Health Department to begin a community conversation on this pressing issue.”

While his sentiments are touching, there is just one problem – well, more than one, to be honest. First, what does smoking have to do with electronic devices that produce no smoke? Second and more importantly, why continue this fiction about tobacco somehow being comparable to vaping? Finally, is the mayor even remotely aware of the research that indicates that vaping helps people end their tobacco addictions? One would think that anyone brazen enough to talk about the “battle to save lives from the dangers of tobacco” would at least take the time to learn what the science says about vaping and smoking cessation.

standard e-cigarette

In Coralville, Iowa, an electronic cigarette ban has been successfully implemented. The new prohibition makes it unlawful to use vaping devices in any area in which smoking is already banned. That action was not new for the area, of course, as nearby Iowa City already had such a ban in place. The city councils in these and other areas continue to assert that vaping is no different than smoking, despite the mounting body of evidence that demonstrates the opposite to be true.

And then there is Rhode Island’s proposed ban on all public vaping in enclosed spaces – a ban that would include even vape shops; the Illinois Senate Bill that would raise the vaping age from eighteen to twenty-one, and; California’s recently passed SBX2-5 anti-vaping law that contains a whole host of measures designed to impose draconian regulatory restrictions and controls over consumers who vape, and the vaping industry.

In state after state, politicians have been adopting increasingly hostile attitudes toward the very products that promise smokers a real and viable way to escape the health dangers associated with tobacco. As they do so, bureaucrats in Washington D.C. continue to promote similar measures. The FDA and other agencies in the Obama Administration are still proceeding apace with their plan to “deem” electronic cigarettes to be tobacco, just so that they can exercise regulatory authority over them under existing tobacco laws. An earlier effort by Republicans in the Congress would have exempted e-cig companies from such regulation, but that measure was blocked by the Democrats in that chamber.

some famous e-cigarettes

The battle continues, however, as vaping enthusiasts and limited government advocates continue to fight for sensible policies that could actually benefit public health. In the U.S. House of Representatives, for example, Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole has attempted to attach an amendment to the Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations Bill that would directly impact the predicate date for FDA deeming action. At the same time, Representative Cole has a current bill that would accomplish the same goal: HR 2058, The FDA Deeming Authority Clarification Act of 2015.

Meanwhile, in the UK, a proposed ban on public use of electronic cigarettes was defeated in Wales after cancer charities successfully argued that studies confirm these devices’ effectiveness in helping smokers to give up their dangerous tobacco habits, however the EU legislation is about to be implemented in May 2016. For vaping advocates in the United States, there is a lesson to be learned from the Welsh success in this area.

For now, however, the tide of negative legislative and regulatory action is decidedly on the rise in the United States and many other areas of the world. Sadly, many legislators and regulators seem uninterested in learning about the real benefits offered by these products, and are actively and consistently proposing increasingly draconian measures that run contrary to the government’s own tobacco harm reduction goals.