By Jon Street | Vermont Watchdog
BURLINGTON, Vt. — One Vermont lawmaker wants a complete ban on e-cigarettes.
Rep. Tom Koch, R,D-Barre, introduced a bill that would ban the sale or possession of e-cigs, defined by the Vermont Department of Health as a battery-powered device that heats a liquid solution to produce a vapor for inhalation.
“I think R.J. Reynolds and other people are using e-cigarettes to stay in business and hook young people on nicotine,” he said.
Bryan Hatchell, a spokesman for the North Carolina-based tobacco company, responded, “We oppose any legislation that bans the sale of e-cigarettes. Our position is that these are legal products that are made for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers. However, we strongly support laws that prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.”
Already, 12 states, including Vermont, have prohibited the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Five more states have enacted laws banning the use of electronic cigarettes in indoor public places or workplaces — New Jersey, Utah, Washington, Georgia and New York.
In Vermont, a store clerk must help people buy e-cigarettes, but that’s not enough for Koch.
“If you don’t ban (e-cigarettes) for everyone, teenagers are likely to get them. I think it’s more effective to ban them completely,” Koch said.
The Barre lawmaker said he can’t point to any scientific evidence to suggest what, if any, negative effects e-cigarettes have on users or the people around them.
“I’ve heard from some people that e-cigarettes have helped them kick smoking, (so) maybe it will be a better idea to use e-cigarettes by prescription only, for people who are trying to kick the habit,” Koch said.
Koch said later he received one email — from a woman in Rhode Island who claims the alternative to cigarettes helped her quit smoking — to that point.
Tim McAfee is director at the Office of Smoking and Health for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McAfee, in an interview with WebMD, said, “We certainly think we have enough evidence that if someone switched from a pack of cigarettes to e-cigarettes, it would likely be an improvement in their health.
“I am not aware of any (health effects). It would be extremely difficult to do currently because … in terms of long-term health effects, it takes decades to look at the effects we’re talking about …We have to rely on what we know of toxicology, that what comes out of e-cigarettes is less toxic, but it’s more toxic than breathing clean air.”
Koch said he has no information suggesting e-cigarettes pose further risks than traditional cigarettes.
“Perhaps because they’re so new … it took years to produce evidence that second-hand smoke has a negative effect,” Koch said.
Banning e-cigarettes would, obviously, hurt some small business owners, such as Adam Tredwell of Castleton.
Tredwell owns a company the sells the liquid vapor produced in e-cigarettes. “We certainly wouldn’t remain in Vermont … which would be rather difficult since our company is Vermont Vapor. It would probably take away half our revenue.”
Statewide advocates are weighing in on Koch’s bill. Rob Roper, president of the Vermont-based free-market think-tank Ethan Allen Institute, suggested adults should be allowed to make these kinds of decisions for themselves.
“I don’t know how you could justify making e-cigarettes 100 percent illegal while allowing tobacco to remain legal but greatly restricted, while decriminalizing or even making legal the recreational use of marijuana. Government is neither rational nor efficient,” Roper said.
Contact Jon Street at email@example.com and find him on Twitter @JonStreet.