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Alaskan House Rules Committee recently voted to revise a bill that had previously designated vaporizers as tobacco products

It’s become all too commonplace for bans to be rapidly passed by legislators by merely equating vaping with smoking. Despite the growing evidence that says vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, public health officials still discourage smokers from making the switch through the passing of bans. That’s why it’s so great to see a government body go against the grain and do something others are too afraid to do. That’s precisely what the Alaskan House Rules Committee did when they voted to change a bill that placed vaping devices under the umbrella of “tobacco products.”

A Change Of Heart

During the 2017 legislative session, Alaska state Senate approved a ban that equated vaping and smoking. This was set to place heavy regulations on the manufacturers and independent shop owners across the state by allowing the existent anti-tobacco rules to reign in vaping use. Unfortunately, when this happened, it was no surprise to anyone in the vaping community as many have become used to the creeping regulations. But advocates and lobbyists for the vaping industry in Alaska have been working to stall the 2018 legislative session all year, which finally forced the committee to reconsider.

When the committee went back and looked at the evidence for themselves, they concluded that there is legitimate value to vaping as a smoking cessation tool. Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, the committee chairperson, primarily cited the recent comprehensive report published in the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. While she was still skeptical of the full effect of vaping, Rep. LeDoux was willing to acknowledge that vaping may play a significant role in the fight against combustible tobacco.

According to the report, “Inhalation of the toxic smoke produced by combusting tobacco products, primarily cigarettes, is the overwhelming cause of tobacco-related disease and death in the United States and globally. A diverse class of alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS) has recently been developed that do not combust tobacco and are substantially less harmful than cigarettes. ANDS have the potential to disrupt the 120-year dominance of the cigarette and challenge the field on how the tobacco pandemic could be reversed if nicotine is decoupled from lethal inhaled smoke.”

Effect Of Bans

While this has been great news for the vaping community, this is far from the norm. In fact, bans are only growing more common as vaping continues to become more popular and visible in society. One recent example of this was in Florida where their constitutional revision committee just voted to place a vaping ban on the ballot in November. After a push by Commissioner Lisa Carlton, the committee voted last week 33-3 in favor of putting a vaping ban to a public vote.

Making the ban more likely to pass is the combination of an offshore drilling ban with the public vaping ban, meaning that either both pass or neither will. Spokespeople from both industries have heavily criticised this decision, but the committee claims that these two issues were run together as a “clean air, clean water” package. The two bans are expected to pass according to polling experts, meaning another state will have officially equated vaping with smoking. These bans only legitimize those who claim that vaping and smoking pose a similar risk to the public, which directly leads to fewer smokers giving them a shot.

Implications

The heart of the issue with vaping bans is that they co-opt the idea that e-cigarettes are mostly the same as combustible cigarettes. By passing legislation that merely places vaping under the umbrella of tobacco control, they’re telegraphing to smokers who may be thinking about making the switch that it’s not worth it. This is just not the case. If you’re a smoker, who’s had difficulty quitting, vaping offers a much safer alternative. So while no one is saying that vaping is 100% harmless, it’s certainly a much better option.

Not only that but by banning and regulating vaping under the same rules as tobacco products, legislators are giving a significant advantage to Big Tobacco companies. When these rules get passed, most of the vaping companies affected are small businesses that have no experience dealing with tobacco control levels of red tape and fees. But Big Tobacco companies are well versed in how to best get around these requirements, not to mention the immense amount of money they have at their disposal for mitigating the effects.

If you don’t think Big Tobacco is coming for the vaping industry, you’re sorely mistaken, as Philip Morris International and others have already released smoke-free devices in other countries, and continue to posture themselves toward vaping. Philip Morris has even gone as far as to admit that they’re planning for a future without selling traditional cigarettes at all. So the only question that remains is why we should hand Big Tobacco the vaping industry after they proved over the last 70 years that they do not have their customers health and well being at heart?

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