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Arkansas Committee Votes Down E-Cig Restrictions

While anti-vaping warriors continue pushing for laws to restrict or outright ban vaping across the country, one state, at least for now, won’t be including e-cigarettes under its indoor smoking ban. A Senate committee in Arkansas voted on a bill that would have banned e-cigarettes everywhere in the state that smoking is banned, but it failed to pass by two votes.

Democratic Senator Eddie Cheatham sponsored the bill, SB285, which aimed to include e-cigarettes in Arkansas’s current smoking ban by defining the use of e-cigarettes or vaping devices as smoking. Smoking is allowed in restaurants in the state only if those restaurants prohibit customers and employees who are under the age of 21, but it is banned in all other restaurants and most places indoors. E-cigarettes currently are banned only in specific places including schools, state college campuses, child care facilities, health care facilities and near State Park buildings.

Republican senator Scott Flippo disagrees with the bill’s intention, saying that he believes business owners should be allowed to make the choice of whether or not to allow e-cigarette use. He expressed concern about “the path we are going” and how other businesses could potentially be targeted for restriction instead of allowing people to decide for themselves which products to use.

But Nate Smith, Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, warned that there is “emerging evidence” to suggest that e-cigarette liquid contains toxins.

Sponsor Cheatham requested that the vote be expunged. The committee agreed, so now the bill can be voted on again at least twice.

It seems likely that Cheatham and other e-cigarette opponents, armed with their “emerging evidence” of the dangers of vaping, will again try to get their bill passed and ban e-cigarettes everywhere in the state that smoking is prohibited.

The state’s current e-cigarette laws require child-proof packaging and a license to sell vaping products. Preventing children and teens from having access to vaping products is common sense regulation that nearly all vaping proponents agree with, but rules that make e-cigarettes too expensive or limit their use by adults run counter to the goal of harm reduction. The evidence of the harm from e-cigarettes is sketchy and can be and has been refuted by sound scientific analysis.

Sometimes e-cigarettes squeak by unharmed by legislation only because of technicalities, for instance, Flippo’s remarks may indicate that his opposition to an e-cigarette ban was motivated by a desire for fairness to consumers and businesses more than because of a belief in the positive benefits of e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative for smokers. Recently in Indiana, e-cig restrictions were shot down mostly because they had the unintended side effect of creating a monopoly and were deemed unconstitutional. The opponents of e-cigarettes are armed with much flimsy evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful. Lawmakers must be informed of the more sound scientific evidence that disputes these claims if we are to make real progress in undoing the harmful e-cigarette laws that have already been passed, and prevent more such laws from getting on the books.

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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