Clinton lawmaker: Weber County a model for E-cig regulation

Tuesday , January 13, 2015 - 8:56 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY – Using Weber County as a model, a Top of Utah lawmaker wants the state to set regulations regarding the manufacturing of e-cigarettes, penalties for sale of the product to children and safety standards.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, insists without some state intervention the trend is the regulations will vary significantly from county to county since the sale and contents of electronic cigarettes are not regulated by the state.

Ray has a bill being drafted that incorporates standards similar to what Weber County has enacted in going aggressively after manufacturers for certain standards and then looking at licensing requirements. His bill is also expected to call for testing nicotine levels in any e-cigarette retail product. The Legislature’s 45-day session begins Jan. 26.

The goal of the regulations is to protect children from the potential dangers of increasing problems associated with vaping e-juices.

“In my view the state needs to put minimum requirements down and allow counties some flexibility, similar to Weber County,” Ray told the Standard-Examiner.

He ran similar legislation during the 2014 session only to run out of time in the 45-day session after a bill setting new standards was passed by the House, but didn’t have enough time to be considered anew, after some Senate modifications.

He sees momentum on the issue.

“I know the votes are there and even people on the fence are making sure I am running it this time,” Ray said.

Ray has been especially critical of the e-cigarette industry for the way they have targeted youth and what he describes as their deception. For example, he said almost 60 percent of the e-cigarette products on local shelves are labeled incorrectly. He said his new bill will ensure manufacturers cannot label a product as safe, or as reduced harm, without testing behind the claim.

Aaron Frazier, executive director of the Utah Smoke Free Association, described Weber County’s regulation of e-cigarettes the strictest in the state, but said the industry can live with them, depending on specifics on some of the language in the bill, when it is drafted. He cautioned, however, that manufacturers need a reasonable timeframe to get the necessary equipment and processes in place, to meet new guidelines. He suggested a 30-60 day guideline is not realistic, given some of the costs associated with the necessary equipment to meet potential standards----similar to what Weber County has in place.

Frazier was also openly critical of any move to add additional taxes to the industry, beyond the existing sales tax. He said any move by Gov. Gary Herbert or Ray to add additional costs to the industry will meet resistance.

“We’ll fight every effort to add costs and taxes to the industry. We don’t agree with it at any level,” Frazier said. He said it is unfair to target any one industry to simply revenue to state coffers.

Ray’s legislation comes as statistics show an increasing rate of use of e-cigarettes in Utah. A 2013 report issued by the Utah Department of Health showed the percentage of Utah students in grades 8, 10, and 12 who reported they had tried e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2013. It also said trends show Utah youth are three times more likely to report to current use than adults, despite having no legal access to the product.

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