Utah Senate Bans Smoking E-Cigs in Indoor Public Places
Date Posted: March 9, 2012
The Utah Senate approved a ban March 8 on smoking hookahs and electronic cigarettes in indoor public places. But, HB245 exempts hookah bars and e-cigarette shops from the ban for five years, when the exemption will sunset, and the legislature may revisit whether to extend it at that time.
The Senate voted 24-3 to approve the bill, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
Until now, hookahs and e-cigarettes fell into a gray area because Utah’s Indoor Clean Air Act only bans igniting tobacco. Hookahs heat tobacco in pipes that pass through water and e-cigarettes vaporize a liquid with nicotine, but neither ignites tobacco.
Passage comes after protesters smoked hookahs outside the State Capitol early in the session, attempting to show that they do not cause second-hand smoke. Hookah bars contended the ban eventually could put them out of business and cost jobs.
The legislation is one of many in the states that are not based on scientific evidence. But rather seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to what some lawmakers see as a potential health danger. V2 Cigs wrote about this bill last month while it was still in committee. The bill, like so many others, ignores scientific evidence of the benefits to smokers of using e-cigs. A 2006 comprehensive scientific report that appeared in the Harm Reduction Journal, “Tobacco harm reduction: an alternative cessation strategy for inveterate smokers”, concluded that the use of products like e-cigs were beneficial in helping smokers quit smoking. William T. Godshall, MPH, executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, points out that scientific evidence shows cigarette smoke poses 100 times greater morbidity and mortality risks than use of smokeless tobacco products in the US and Sweden, and indicates that all noncombustible tobacco/nicotine products (including e-cigarettes, nicotine gums, lozenges, patches) are about 99% less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes.
The American Association of Public Health Physicians has endorsed the use of e-cigarettes by smokers. The Utah Health Department is making false claims that people cannot tell the difference between a burning cigarette that emits tobacco smoke pollution and a smoke-free e-cig. It is also making claims about the health risks posed by e-cigarettes during the past 2 years in its intolerant zeal to ban the sales of e-cigarettes to adults (in 2009 and 2010), and to now ban adults from using e-cigarettes in all public places.