A House panel voted unanimously Friday in favor of a bill meant to create new regulations for electronic cigarettes, while placing on hold a second bill that would regulate, and in many cases ban, smokeless nicotine products.
Under HB88, it would be illegal for those under 19 to purchase or possess e-cigarettes, battery-powered substitutes into which the user inserts a cartridge and, when it’s puffed, a nicotine vapor is emitted. These devices are supposed to cut the ingestion of tar and second-hand smoke.
The bill also calls on school districts and the State Board of Education to regulate their use in schools, as HB88 would not make e-cigarettes subject to Utah’s Clean Air Act, until the FDA determines whether or not the trace nicotine emitted from them can affect those around them.
Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, called the bill she sponsored “legislation that reflects a changing world.” HB88 received support from the Utah PTA and the Utah School Board, as well as representatives for White Cloud Cigarettes, a major producer of the e-cigarettes, who said they already sought to limit use of e-cigarettes by minors and non-smokers.
The second bill, HB71, was created to target nicotine products packaged to appear like mints, cinnamon sticks and other candies, currently being analyzed by the FDA.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, HB71’s sponsor, claimed these were specific efforts by tobacco companies to target children.
However, committee members postponed voting on the bill after realizing that if left unchanged, the bill would make products including moist snuff and e-cigarettes illegal as well.
Ray said he would return to the committee with two amendments, one to exempt smokeless nicotine products currently sold in Utah, and another to address whether or not e-cigarettes should be allowed to continue to be sold.
Leeann Duncan, White Cloud’s west coast distributor, opposed HB71. “I’m actually proud to help sell electronic cigarettes,” she said. “It’s helping lots of people, and that’s what the whole thing is about.”
Rep. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, asked that both those in favor of e-cigarettes and those, like Michael Siler of the American Cancer Society, return to the committee with additional objective evidence to support their claims.
Rep. Phil Riesen, D-Holladay, asked for bills that go further than the original two. “Setting aside children, we need to figure out a way to get nicotine products out of the hands of adults, because it’s going to kill you.”