Current and Pending Laws Affect Your Access to Tobacco Products
A smoker's right to smoke has steadily eroded over the past decade. In some places, you can't light up a traditional cigarette virtually anywhere except your own car or home.
Smoking bans are one of the reasons for the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes.
But, if you smoke regular or e-cigarettes, you should be aware of laws that could limit your right to purchase as well as use tobacco products.
Some laws, such as those prohibit sales to children, make sense. But others seem aimed at picking your pocket and limiting your choices.
Here are some laws and pending legislation you should know about:
Sales to Minors
A number of states are trying to pass — or have already approved — legislation banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.
South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma and Rhode Island are among states with such bills under consideration. States that have already passed laws prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to children include New York, California, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and Minnesota.
Federal laws regulate the sale of tobacco to minors but do not govern retails of electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine but not tobacco.
So it's up to individual states to enact laws to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
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Electronic Cigarette Tax
Vapers in Utah face an 86 percent tax increase on electronic cigarettes, under a bill proposed by Rep. Paul Ray, a Republican from Clearfield.
Ray told the state's House Health and Human Services Committee on March 5 that his bill is intended to keep electronic cigarettes away from children. But the tax would make ecigarettes more expensive for adults.
The bill, HB 372, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee March 6. The proposed tax hike applies to the “juice” — a liquid containing nicotine, water, propylene glycol and flavoring — used to fill an electronic cigarette cartridge. The law would not pose additional taxes on accessories, such as the batteries and AC adapters.
Adults faced with tax increases such as the one proposed in Utah could save money by shopping online. Electronic cigarettes sold online are not affected by state “sin” taxes on e-cigs.
Freedom to Choose
If you look at the cigarette counters at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops, you might wonder if anyone is making new brands of cigarettes these days. But the reason the store displays look unchanged isn't because companies have stopped making new cigarettes — it's because the Food and Drug Administration is taking a very long time to review applications.
Since 2009, when the FDA was given authority to regulate cigarettes, the agency has received about 3,500 applications to approve new tobacco products. — products new in design or taste but substantially equivalent to cigarettes already on the market. In more than three years, not a single application has been approved or rejected, leaving innovators in limbo and smokers without the freedom to try new brands.
The FDA, while recently asserting its intention to expedite its review process, also defends its slowness. David Ashley, director of the Office of Science at the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, says minor differences in composition or design could make a product more habit-forming or more dangerous to your health, according to a statement he made to Jacob Grier, a contributor to The Atlantic.
But, as Grier points out, the years-long delay in processing applications may benefit big tobacco companies more than the public because it has kept new players off the field. ”Three years into FDA regulation, Philip Morris claims nearly fifty percent of American cigarette sales,” Grier wrote in his March 6 article.
If you're concerned about government regulations that limit your freedom to smoke, let your legislators know how you feel. You can find contact information for your state and local lawmakers online. Or you can add your name to online petitions.