This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
We couldn't agree more with Rep. Paul Ray's pledge of putting the tobacco industry out of business. The vapor industry was founded by entrepreneurial former smokers who wanted an alternative from the harmful effects of combustible cigarettes.
Contrary to some opinions, vapor products are not tobacco products. They contain zero tobacco and are significantly different than combustible cigarettes. Vapor products use heat from a battery to vaporize e-liquids, which contain nicotine in some cases, rather than combustion to burn tobacco.
As an industry primarily comprised of small businesses not Big Tobacco the last thing we want to see are minors using vapor products. We lobbied Congress in 2013 for age restrictions and supported a national law on child-resistant packaging, as well as created our own "Age To Vape" program and continue to support the "We Card" initiative.
Public health officials, legislators and the vapor industry all can agree that minors should not be using any age-restricted products. Vapor products and e-cigs are only for adults, sold by adults and targeted toward adult smokers and vapers. Similarly, research shows that nearly all vapers are former smokers, and the average age of a vaper is 39 years old.
While the Utah Legislature's Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee heard a report on e-cigarettes use among Utah youth showing growth in experimentation, it provided no evidence that minors who experiment with vapor products actually continue to use them. While combustible tobacco smoking rates have reached a historical low nationally, the CDC shows no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014, which means minors are still trying many different products. In any event, parents and guardians should speak with their children about not using any age-restricted product.
Instead of demonizing the industry and the many small-business entrepreneurs, we want to work together to make obsolete combustible tobacco. Let's ensure that legislation for these products, which serve as a proven meaningful alternative for adult smokers, do not discourage them from making the switch to what science says is at least 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes.
After all, combustible tobacco costs the state more than $600 million in annual healthcare costs. Why not try a new strategy for adults unable or unwilling to stop smoking?
Seeking a punitive tax on vapor products is simply wrong. It's time Utah embrace harm-reduction, instead of a regressive tax that pushes vapers back to combustible tobacco or one that creates a black market. Coincidentally, even this newspaper reported on how Utah's high tobacco tax boasted smuggling.
A black market for vapor products and e-liquids would be dangerous for public health and counterproductive even to Rep. Ray's own legislation to regulate the industry.
Our industry always has supported science-based regulations such a national standards on labeling and packaging. A patchwork of local laws only creates confusion and unneeded complexity for businesses and their customers.
So let's stop the mudslinging and name-calling and work together on a sensible solution to reduce the public harm caused by combustible tobacco, while supporting the many Utah small business that make up this industry.
Shilo Platts is a member of the Utah chapter of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association.