Legislature Avoids Treating Vaping Like Smoking, For Now


The state Senate yesterday unanimously approved HB1186, which was one of two bills emerging from the House aimed at putting some restrictions on sales of vaping products (the other, HB1078, failed).

There are a lot of things to dislike about HB1186. While it bans sales to minors, which isn’t all that controversial, it puts in place a requirement for childproof packaging for the products. That seems unnecessary. But the big victory in passing the legislation is that we’ve avoided lumping vaping products in with traditional tobacco products for the purposes of regulation.

HB1186, introduced by Rep. Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo), uses the terms “electronic smoking devices” and “alternative nicotine products.” The anti-smoking zealots, who have one of their own employees in the Senate now with Democrat Erin Oban’s election last year, weren’t pleased with the distinction.

They want to treat vaping just like smoking.

“Sometimes the good outweighs the flaws, and that’s precisely how I view this bill,” said Sen. Erin Oban, D-Bismarck, executive director of Tobacco Free North Dakota. …

Oban raised concern about using terms like “alternative nicotine product” for products “that are indeed tobacco products and should be treated as such under the law.”

“Creating multiple definitions makes enforcement and compliance more difficult and protection for minors less effective,” she said. “In addition, currently we have no idea who’s even selling products like electronic cigarettes, and unfortunately this bill doesn’t help us to address that concern, either.”

Of course, the state doesn’t necessarily track all the retailers selling caffeinated beverages either. And why should they? Caffeine is a relatively benign substance, as is the nicotine delivered through vaping.

The professional anti-tobacco activists would have us believe that vaping is every bit as deleterious to our health as traditional tobacco use, and they suppose that any day now they’ll have some hard data to prove their point. But for now we’re supposed to believe that vaping is just like smoking because it kind of looks the same.

But it isn’t the same.

I wish the Legislature had stick to a simple ban on sales to minors until we have some evidence proving that vaping is anywhere near the public health threat the anti-smoking zealots tell us it is, but I think we can at least be happy they didn’t decide to just lump vaping in with smoking.

Sometimes, in politics, you just have to appreciate that the outcome wasn’t worse.