Utah Senate Banning E-Cigs in Public Places

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UPDATE 2/27/12:

The state senate committee voted unanimously  in favor of HB 245 S3 today, which would add the use of electronic cigarettes to the definition of smoking and would ban their use in all public places.  The bill now moves to the Senate floor for a vote.

“If we want to eliminate hookas and e-cigarettes in public places, we need to do something,” Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, told the Senate Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee.

The bill grants a five-year exemption to hooka bars and businesses that sell e-cigarettes that can be used on the premises.

“With a fence around it for five years, we can evaluate how it works,” Last said.


The use of electronic cigarettes is under attack in Utah. A state senate committee is scheduled Feb. 27 to vote on HB 245 S3, which would add the use of electronic cigarettes to the definition of smoking and would ban their use in all public places.  It has already passed the full House of Representatives with a vote of 42 to 31 and is now in the Utah Senate.

The bill ignores scientific evidence of the benefits to smokers of using e-cigs. A 2006 comprehensive scientific report that appeared in the Harm Reduction Journal, “Tobacco harm reduction: an alternative cessation strategy for inveterate smokers”, concluded that the use of products like e-cigs were beneficial in helping smokers quit smoking. William T. Godshall, MPH, executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, points out that scientific evidence shows cigarette smoke poses 100 times greater morbidity and mortality risks than use of smokeless tobacco products in the US and Sweden, and indicates that all noncombustible tobacco/nicotine products (including e-cigarettes, nicotine gums, lozenges, patches) are about 99% less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes.

The American Association of Public Health Physicians has endorsed the use of e-cigarettes by smokers. The Utah Health Department is making false claims that people cannot tell the difference between a burning cigarette that emits tobacco smoke pollution and a smoke-free e-cig. It is also making claims about the health risks posed by e-cigarettes during the past 2 years in its intolerant zeal to ban the sales of e-cigarettes to adults (in 2009 and 2010), and to now ban adults from using e-cigarettes in all public places.

The health department has also misrepresented the results of its 2011 Utah youth survey, which found that Utah has the lowest youth tobacco use rate in the nation (less than half the national average). The survey also found that e-cigarettes have been used by fewer 12th graders than any other tobacco product, and at significantly lower levels than cigarettes, hookahs and cigars.  It is also illegal to sell an e-cigarette to any minor under the age of 19 years in Utah.

In a blog post, Dr. Michael Siegel the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston, points out a Utah health official who has essentially stated that cigarettes are preferable to e-cigarettes because the nicotine content is known with cigarettes.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association is urging consumers of e-cigarettes to immediately contact the Utah Senate and urge lawmakers to vote against this bill. The Amendment to Definition of Smoking in Utah Indoor Clean Air Act,” completely ignores the fact that e-cigs have helped several million smokers in the US quit smoking by switching to smokeless tobacco products, and about one million smokers have quit by switching to e-cigs in the past five years.

A provision in a recent bill in Hawaii, which would have required a 70 percent tobacco tax on e-cigs, was defeated thanks to protests from more than 1,000 people and companies. Contact Utah lawmakers now to prevent passage of this erroneous bill.