Treating E-Cigarettes Like Tobacco Products Does A Disservice To Public Health


E-cigarettes have roared into the marketplace as a new product with few regulations. Currently lawmakers in Bismarck are grappling with how to deal with this product, which among other things is currently legal to sell to minors (though most retailers aren’t allowing that sort of thing).

Personally, I’m not convinced we need to regulate nicotine any more thoroughly than we regulate caffeine, but the state is certainly going to institute some regulations. Most notably an official ban on sales to minors. But the state’s health officials want more. They want e-cigarettes treated just like tobacco:

The North Dakota Department of Health believes e-cigarettes should be considered tobacco products because the nicotine contained in the liquid that’s vaporized by the battery-powered devices is derived from tobacco plants, said Krista Fremming, director of the department’s chronic disease division.

“Defining nicotine devices as tobacco products would allow the state to treat and regulate the sale of these products to minors in the same way the state treats and regulates the sale to minors of other tobacco products, such as conventional cigarettes,” she testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

There are two bills dealing with a ban on e-cigarette or vaping products to minors, and neither of them seek to lump these products in with tobacco products. HB1078 adds “nicotine devices” to the list of products banned for sale to minors, with that term defined as “any noncombustible product that can be used by an individual to simulate smoking through inhalation of a substance that contains or delivers nicotine or any other ingredient.”

HB1186 does essentially the same thing, but uses the terms “electronic smoking devices” and  “alternative nicotine products.”

Both bills seek to define these new products in the law as something distinct and separate from traditional smoking products.

That’s the right move. Because vaping isn’t smoking. There’s no tobacco involved. And while vaping or e-cigarette use isn’t healthy, per se, every indication today is that it’s significantly healthier than traditional smoking.

Meaning that those in favor of a healthy public should be happy to see a shift from tobacco use to vaping.

If only the anti-tobacco zealots embedded in state government had enough sense to see that.