Viewpoint: Tobacco, e-cigarettes the same in the House

E-cigarettes are a controversial topic across the country. Utah holds some of the strictest substance laws in the nation, and soon e-cigarettes will be lumped into that category. House Bill 112 looks to make e-cigarettes the same under the law. Changing the wording of the law from “tobacco” to “tobacco products” would include e-cigarette and e-cigarettes distributors in the legal obligations under typical smoke shops. This holds multiple outcomes for local business and community at large.

Four Bountiful “vapor” stores have been refused a license for this current year. Vapor Dreams, Urban Vapor LLC, Vapor R Us and Vaporloc have been forced to close their doors, as state proximity laws are not allowing them to continue their businesses. While this law was already in place, many more businesses will need to be accounted for in HB 112’s execution. While Bountiful City may have dropped the ball on those four licenses, there should be some provision for existing businesses to be “grandfathered in,” a term used to denote the exception for establishments licensed before the law took effect.

Aside from the apparent consequences for business, the bill is a good thing. If the business aspects can be worked out, then it makes sense to limit the sale of nicotine products to those who can buy tobacco. According to the CDC, the number of high school–aged youth who have used e-cigarettes has more than doubled since 2011. This statistic is alarming for many reasons, not the least of which is that more of the rising generation is acquiring a taste (or twitch) for nicotine.

With the lack of data about the effects of e-cigarettes on health and the statistics of teen usage, it makes a good deal of sense to take them out of kids’ hands, or at least out of their legal reach. Why would a 14-year-old need to “vape”? We can’t think of a good reason. While the law itself won’t stop kids from puffing, it will impose penalties on violators, youth and otherwise.

If a minor is found with possession of “tobacco products,” the law would view that as the same as smoking tobacco, and they would proceed through the juvenile courts. If an adult gives tobacco products to a minor, they will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. People haven’t followed these laws with tobacco, so why should they with e-cigarettes?

The marketing campaigns of many of these e-cigarettes are mildly unnerving as well. Childish flavors like blue raspberry and bubble gum don’t seem to appeal to modern smokers. If juice was released that tasted like American Spirit, Newports or Cuban cigars (special juice would be available in Colorado), it would stand to reason that these companies were out to replace the smoke of choice for seasoned smokers. But they’re not, as is seen by their flavors. Just because something is kiwi-strawberry flavored doesn’t mean it’s not addicting. Anyone who has tried a Jolly Rancher can attest to that fact.

Nicotine isn’t good in any context. If it’s put in cereal or juice boxes, laws will be passed against those too. As amusing as nicotine-related cereal would be (can’t get enough of that Vapor Crisp!), it is a serious thought to consider where nicotine products will be stopped.

Keep the business and the e-cigarettes open for adults, but leave the kids out of it. For this, HB 112 is a good start.