Alaska is one of the first states to officially recognize that vaping and smoking shouldn’t be forced into the same group
Legislatures, for many years now, have lumped vaping in with legislation covering smoking and tobacco products. The evidence is mounting that supports vaping as at least 95% safer than combustible cigarettes. That, however, has not stopped the trend of health officials discouraging people from making the switch by placing bans and restrictions on them. In recent months certain state governments have taken refreshing stances that actually treat vaping as separate from smoking, and Alaska is one such state. The Alaska House Rules Committee voted to change a bill that previously lumped vaping in under the umbrella of “tobacco product.”
In 2017 the Alaska State Senate passed a ban that grouped vaping and smoking together. What this did was place regulations on manufacturers and shop owners by extending existing anti-tobacco rules to cover vaping and vape products as well. At the time this unfavorable ruling was not a surprise to many in the vaping community who saw regulations like this cropping up across the country. However advocates and lobbyists for vaping worked with, and finally forced, the committee to reconsider that legislature.
When the committee revisited the topic, they found that they had been mistaken and that there was plenty of legitimate value in vaping as a smoking cessation tool. The committee’s chairperson, Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, cited a report by the Nation Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health which said that vaping might be a significant factor in the fight against combustible tobacco.
The report Rep. LaDoux cited goes further, saying “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.”
The Ban Effect
While Alaska’s updated policies definitely go in the books as a W for vapers, their change of heart is still not typical. Bans are actually becoming more common as vaping becomes more popular, and therefore more visible, in society. In Florida, a vaping ban, pushed by Commissioner Lisa Carlton, will be up to public vote in November. To raise the likeliness of the vaping ban being passed it has been grouped on the ballot with a totally unrelated offshore drilling ban, so either both or neither will.
Spokespeople from both industries have criticized this grouping, but the committee insists these two issues are tied as a “clean air, clean water” initiative. According to polling experts, both bans are expected to pass. This means that Florida will be yet another state that tells it’s people that vaping is as dangerous and harmful as smoking, ultimately that will lead fewer smokers to quit and take away the opportunity they had to do so.
At their center, these bans and regulations are grouping vaping and e-cigarettes in with deadly combustible cigarettes. This kind of legislation tells people that the products are equally as dangerous and that switching to vaping is not worth it when in reality it could be life-changing. Smokers who have difficulty quitting by other means are now losing out on this fantastic tool that has been so effective for so many in their position. While vaping is not harm free, it is so substantially safer than smoking.
By putting vaporizers under the same legislation as tobacco, or by banning it, the lawmakers are giving a massive advantage to Big Tobacco. When smaller vape companies get put under these regulations, they are more affected by the red tape tobacco companies have years of experience navigating. They also have much more substantial funds to draw from, so their business is less affected by related fees.
Big Tobacco companies have been going after the vaping industry for years. They have introduced products such as the heat-not-burn iQOS from Phillip Morris in an attempt to encroach upon vaping markets. Phillip Morris has even admitted they plan on an eventuality of not selling traditional cigarettes at all. So what lawmakers must ask themselves is not whether Big Tobacco has the public’s best interest in mind, they’ve proven decade after decade that they do not. But ultimately the question will be whether they should continue playing into Big Tobacco’s pockets with these regulations and bans or not.
Are vaping taxes a problem where you live? Will Alaska’s move lead to similar decisions? How should we fight Big Tobacco while also supporting vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.