Senate Committee Adopts Hog House Amending Turning Vaping Flavor Ban Into a Tax

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When HB1477, introduced by Alisa Mitskog (D-Wahpeton), was passed by the House it was a simple ban on selling flavored vaping products to minors.

Here’s the text, which also would have created a stiff penalty for any infractions:

The bill passed the House on a 60 – 33 vote, mostly because I think reasonable people aren’t all that keen on selling any sort of vaping products to minors in the first place (it was watered down in the House from a full-on flavor ban to what you see above).

But in the Senate today the bill was “hog housed.” That’s the parlance of North Dakota lawmakers for a situation where an amendment to a bill essentially turns it into something else entirely. In this instance a ban on selling flavored vaping products to minors has been turned into legislation which treats vaping products exactly the same as tobacco products.

Meaning vaping products would be subject to the same taxes and regulations as tobacco products are.

Below is a picture of the amendment provided by a source down at the session.

As you can see, the change is definition. The amendment would create a definition of in law of an “electronic smoking device” and then define “tobacco product” as including “electronic smoking devices.”

If this were to pass it would be folly. Not because vaping products should be exempt from regulation and taxation, but because they are a very different thing from traditional smoking products.

Vaping is not healthy, but based on everything we know now it’s certainly healthier than traditional tobacco use. Formulating state law in such a way that doesn’t recognize this basic, fundamental difference would be a mistake. Vaping should be taxed and regulated on its own merits, not as though it were something it is not.

The anti-tobacco professionals – the health bureaucrats and nonprofit activists who make a good living promoting tobacco prohibition – see vaping as a new frontier for their industry. Tobacco use has declined, but vaping is on the rise.

Reasonable people should see that as a net gain for public health. But then most reasonable people don’t have a fiscal interest in keeping the fight against tobacco alive.

Even if the Senate approves this bill as amended its chances in the House are pretty slim, I believe. Which is at it should be, because this is bad policy.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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