You never know how social media will play in a legislative issue.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, says if you go online and read comments about his HB112, the control of so-called e-cigarettes, one may believe Ray wants to outlaw the product, or tax it out of business.
But that is not the case at all, says Ray, who has become the go-to guy for tobacco regulation and taxation in Utah.
“All we’re trying to do is make a legal product safer,” says Ray.
As his bill now reads, Ray would have the state Health Department license the makers and sellers of e-cigs.
But he hopes he can make it legal for the state Tax Commission to license the relatively-new e-cigs, just as they do tobacco products today.
However, Ray would not place the current tobacco tax on e-cigs, because they don’t cause the severe health problems that smoking tobacco does.
Still, says Ray, e-cigs are dangerous.
E-cigs are basically a different delivery system for nicotine, without the tobacco side-effects – like causing cancer.
But e-cigs do give the user “a buzz” because of the usually high dosage of nicotine that quickly enters the body through the lungs.
Nicotine gum and patches are medical products aimed at helping smokers quit the dangerous and killing addiction.
e-cigs, on the other hand, actually aid a person getting hooked on nicotine, says Ray.
E-cigs “don’t help you quit smoking; they just get you addicted to nicotine,” says Ray.
Others may disagree.
And online talking boards about HB112 really hit Ray and his supporters for trying to hinder the use of an otherwise legal product.
“I’m only asking for a $30 per year license to make and distribute e-cigarettes” and the so-called “e-juice” cartridges used inside the metal or plastic physical e-cigs.
E-cigs and e-juice cartridges would have the regular state and local sales taxes placed on the products, but not the high tobacco tax, said Ray.
Currently, says Ray, the e-juice is often not properly produced, don’t contain the amount of nicotine on the label and can be a real hazards.
One adult smoking an e-cig in a car with a child had the applicator explode, shooting flames on the child, said Ray.
Bloggers are concentrating on the licensing and taxing of e-cigs, says Ray. When in fact most of his bill is about the government manufacturing regulation and oversight of the e-juice cartridges.
The industry says it supports HB112, says Ray.
“But the bloggers” are going crazy over his proposed law.
The real emphasis should be in keeping under-age smokers from using e-cigs, and thus getting addicted to nicotine; and in protection of adults who use the product.
There was one case where health officials measured the amount of nicotine in e-juice – the cartridge was labeled: No nicotine.
The users just wanted the comforting feeling of smoking something while they tried to get off tobacco.
But tests showed that the cartridge did have nicotine in it, even though it wasn’t supposed to.
“We’re having e-juice cartridges made in Utah homes, packaged and sold. No real controls on the product.”
Ray’s HB112 was just introduced and awaits a fiscal note. It then will be sent to a House committee for a hearing.
“I think it will pass,” says Ray, but there could be a number of outraged e-cigs users at the hearing asking lawmakers not to adopt HB112.
“We want to make e-cigarettes safer, and have only adults using this product.”
And Ray says users of caffeine can relax. He has no plans to go after that soft-drink and coffee ingredient.