The House unanimously passed Friday a bill that could make Utah the first state to regulate electronic cigarettes, but only after it made an amendment that the sponsor says gutted key provisions.
But Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sponsor of HB 112, still asked the House to pass it anyway — which it did on a 73-0 vote — and said he would work "to fix it" as it moves to the Senate.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine-based liquid that is vaporized and inhaled. The House-passed version of the bill would ban anyone under 19 from buying or using them, and require retailers to obtain licenses from the State Tax Commission to sell them.
Ray intended to go much further. He wanted to ban all Internet sales of e-cigarettes, allow the Utah Health Department to set up manufacturing standards, and ban the marketing of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device.
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, amended the bill — on a 40-29 vote — to remove those provisions.
His substitute allows sales via Internet but requires the purchaser to verify both at order and delivery that they are at least 19. Gibson defended the change saying, "To keep adults from doing what they want [with a legal product] I think is wrong."
But Ray argued that teens are using the Internet to obtain e-cigarettes, and they can find ways around verification on order and delivery. "We’re the first state in the nation … that is taking the steps to try to keep these out of the hands of minors."
Gibson also said the federal Food and Drug Administration is considering regulating e-cigarettes, and it would make sense to hold off to see if that happens to have one national standard instead of different ones in many states.
Several lawmakers also said some people do use e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices because they can set levels to lower nicotine content over time to make stopping easier.
Ray lamented after Gibson’s amendment passed, "That was trying to gut the bill so that we have very lax, confused standards.... We’re going to have to rework this" as the Senate considers it.
He said the tobacco industry is marketing to minors by offering flavors "like Bazooka bubblegum and Captain Crunch cereal, all these great fruity flavors." So he said the state must find ways to make it much tougher to sell to them.
With the amendment, Ray complained to the House, "We’ve just told this next generation, ‘You know what, it [an e-cigarette] is probably better for you than cigarettes so go ahead.’ But that’s not true."
He added that saying e-cigarettes are better than regular cigarettes is akin to saying instead of "I’m going to jump off a 15-story building, it’s probably best if I jump off a ten-story building. The result at the ground is going to be the same."
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