E-smoke bill dies in panel
But study suggested • Lawmakers suggest studying issue for a year ‘to get it right.’
Published: March 7, 2014 08:50PM
Updated: March 7, 2014 09:25PM

Lawmakers snuffed out a bill Friday designed to better regulate e-cigarettes, deciding that disagreement about their effects and how best to control them requires more study over the next year.

The Senate Business and Labor Committee unanimously voted to defeat HB112. That came after the House had earlier “gutted” the bill, in the words of the sponsor, and the Senate committee also refused Friday to erase any of those earlier House changes.

Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine-based liquid that is vaporized and inhaled. Utah law already bans their sale to and use by anyone under age 19. But Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sought to put more teeth into the law.

For example, he proposed that the state Tax Commission license stores that sell e-cigarettes as it licenses outlets that sell regular cigarettes. Those licenses could then be revoked if the retailers are found to repeatedly sell to children. When underage sales are found now, only the clerk who sold the devices faces charges.

Ray had sought to ban Internet sales (which the House had amended to allow for adults); ban marketing them as a smoking cessation device (also erased by the House); require better labels including how much nicotine they contain; and regulate the manufacturing and quality of the devices (also erased).

A long parade of medical groups and local health departments endorsed Ray’s efforts Friday, although the e-cigarette industry opposed many of them.

For example, Anna Guymon with the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said a survey found that the rate of youth using e-cigarettes in its area exploded from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013 — and the adult-use rate is only 13.6 percent.

David Patton, director of the Utah Department of Health, said he found e-cigarette flavors including pina colada and Captain Crunch “so that’s clearly marketed toward children.” He said it helps addict them to nicotine, which has harmful effects itself, and leads to smoking regular cigarettes that have worse health effects.

Michelle McComber with the Utah Medical Association, added, “Regardless what tobacco companies say, it is designed to appeal to children. And they are successful.”

Marketing makes many children falsely believe the e-cigarettes are safe, she added, and they are not really smoking with them.

The Davis County Health Department also said its testing of e-cigarettes found nicotine levels sometimes many times higher than what were purported.

Because of fights over what is and is not needed — and how not to interfere with the rights of adults for the devices — Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, suggested studying the issue for a year.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said with less than a week left in the legislative session, he also favored interim study because “we need to get this one right.” He said the bill as drafted also would erase some regulations that Davis County has adopted, which he wants to avoid.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, noted that eight different substitute versions of the bill have been proposed, which he said is a sign that it needs study and time to iron out differences.