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Government and Politics


Ohio senators pass a controversial e-cigarettes bill
E-cigs would be considered alternative nicotine products -- not tobacco -- for tax and indoor smoking purposes and will be off limits to anyone under 18
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE BUREAU CHIEF KAREN KASLER


Reporter
Karen Kasler
 
The new bill classifies e-cigarettes as alternative nicotine products that are off limits to kids under 18.
Courtesy of Creative Commons Lindsay Fox
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In The Region:
Electronic cigarettes are a fairly new item on the market – they look like cigarettes, but don’t produce smoke or ash. But they’re also sparking debate on how they should be regulated and taxed. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler has more on the e-cigarettes bill that state lawmakers just approved.
LISTEN: Debate on how to categorize e-cigarettes

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The bill puts e-cigarettes into a new category of alternative nicotine products, and says those products, like tobacco products, are off limits to kids under 18. 

Rep. Stephanie Kunze of the Columbus suburb of Hilliard sponsored the bill, which she says was sparked by recent stats showing a doubling in the number of middle and high school students trying e-cigarettes. Kunze says the new category is appropriate because, while most e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, there is not enough data to show that they are dangerous beyond the potential of nicotine addiction.

“Until these studies come out on the actual effects of e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products, I think it’s a little premature to lump them into a category that we have years and years of history on as being harmful.”

Not enough
But more than two dozen Democrats in the House voted against the bill, saying it didn’t go far enough. Rep. Nickie Antonio of the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood wanted e-cigarettes to be labeled, regulated and taxed just like regular cigarettes are.

“Should we find down the road that they’re not harmful, then give them a new category once the testing is in. I guess my question is: Why move so quickly now? Part of the reason, I believe, is that Big Tobacco is the sponsor of this bill and bills across the country.”

Kunze readily admits that Lorillard, the third largest cigarette maker in the country and a recent buyer of an electronic cigarette manufacturer, was involved in crafting this legislation. But she says that was helpful so that the measure could address the latest alternative nicotine products, such as suckers and lozenges. And she says there’s nothing in the bill that prevents changing the taxes on e-cigarettes when more studies are done on them.

What we don't know
“We don’t know how harmful they are. What if there’s a chemical in there that’s more harmful than a cigarette and we’ve settled on only taxing them at the rate of a traditional cigarette. We could have gone higher. So I think it’s important to realize we can still have that option even with the new definition and the new category.”

But Antonio points there are also no studies that show e-cigarettes or the vapor they produce is harmless, which is why she wanted them to be included in the state’s indoor-smoking ban. Nor, she says, is there evidence they will help people quit their traditional cigarette habit.

“There is no conclusive evidence that they can be categorized as a smoking-cessation aid. They’re also, because of this special category, falling outside of the Indoor Clean Air Act.”

Kunze says when she started working on the bill to limit kids’ access to e-cigarettes last fall, it had the support of major anti-smoking health groups such as the American Cancer Society. Antonio says that support fell off when e-cigarettes were put into the alternative nicotine products category instead of being regulated as tobacco products. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.
Listener Comments:

Antonio points there are also no studies that show e-cigarettes or the vapor they produce is harmless, which is why she wanted them to be included in the state’s indoor-smoking ban. Nor, she says, is there evidence they will help people quit their traditional cigarette habit.

Has this fool been hiding under a rock for the last couple of years. There is a lot of evidence proving they are harmless. Just google it fool.


Posted by: Tim Berry (Michigan) on February 14, 2014 8:02AM
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