The FDA Deeming Regulations aren’t the only new rules to affect vapers and the e-cigarette industry in 2016. State and local governments still have the authority to establish their own laws regarding e-cigs, and some Utah legislators are taking full advantage of that power. Online sales of e-cig products are now forbidden in Utah, and a tax increase on vapor products has been proposed. While tighter restrictions on e-cigs are intended to protect public health, critics worry that making tobacco alternatives less accessible will only lead to more people smoking tobacco cigarettes.
No More Buying E-Cigs Online for Utah Vapers
As of July 2016, online e-cig sales are banned in Utah. Retailers may sell vapor products through face-to-face transactions; however, businesses must register with Utah’s Tax Commission and pay a licensing fee of $30 with stiff fines for failing to comply. Utah Smoke-Free Association executive director Aaron Frazier was critical of the passage of HB 415 because its sponsor, Representative Paul Ray, added the provision banning online sales at the last minute while allowing no time for discussion or debate. To make matters worse, many local municipalities in Utah have zoning laws that limit where vape shops may operate, so many of the 35,000 vapers who live in Utah will have no way to purchase tobacco alternatives. As a result, some may turn back to smoking, and those who want to quit will have one less tool to help them beat their addiction.
Utah’s E-Cig Sin Tax Vaporized…For Now
Although his campaign to make e-cigs harder to obtain was successful, Rep. Paul Ray’s proposed bill to increase taxes on vapor products is still in the legislative pipeline. In a bizarre publicity stunt, Ray invited over 300 high school students to the House floor to support his proposal, which prompted counter protests from tobacco-harm-reduction advocates. The bill, HB 333, would impose a tax hike of 86.5 percent on e-cig products, but it is still currently under review by the Utah House Revenue and Taxation Commission.
The Public’s Misguided View on Vaping
False media reporting, misinterpreted studies and anti-vaping campaigns have become a growing problem for the vaping industry when it comes to public knowledge of e-cigs. Like many adults who know nothing about vaping other than what they have read in the news or seen on TV, Rep. Ray believes that e-cigs encourage nicotine dependency in youth. According to statements he has made, Ray also seems to think that tobacco companies are the primary stakeholders in the vaping industry. He told the Salt Lake City Tribune that tobacco companies, “have basically killed off their clientele” and, “E-cigarettes are how they are going to addict that next generation.” In reality, most makers and sellers of e-cigs are small businesses that have no connection with tobacco companies, and they market their products to adults who want to quit smoking. Even bigger online e-cig retailers, such as White Cloud, have no affiliation with tobacco companies. Ironically, now that some big tobacco companies have entered the e-cig market, they may be the only brands that can afford to stay afloat in the current flood of new regulations.
Are U.S. States Taking E-Cig Regulations Too Far?
E-cig “sin taxes” are being proposed across the U.S. to allegedly protect children and discourage unhealthy behaviors. Some supporters also argue that higher taxes are needed on e-cigs to make up for revenue lost from decreased tobacco sales. However, National Center for Public Policy Research analyst Jeff Stier has expressed concern that higher taxes on vapor products could disincentivize smokers who are considering switching to e-cigs from adopting a potentially safer alternative to tobacco. He has also noted the hypocrisy of those who support such taxes: “If the point of a sin tax is to discourage behavior,” he told reporters, “why would you put a sin tax on e-cigarettes, which are the alternative to smoking?”
The president of the American Vaping Association, Greg Conley, went a step further, proclaiming, “Anti-smoking activists have officially gone off the rails,” for “recklessly campaigning to equate the taxes on deadly cigarettes with smoke-free vapor products.” While most e-cig opponents have their hearts in the right place, the laws that they encourage could have a negative impact on public health by keeping smokers trapped in their tobacco habit.
How Do Utah’s New Laws Affect White Cloud Customers?
Due to the last minute language included in HB 415 for the banning of online e-cig purchases, White Cloud had no choice but to cease shipping products to customers in Utah. We strongly encourage our now, unfortunately, former Utah customers, and all Utah vapers in general, to contact your local representatives to express how being denied access to the vapor products you have come to trust greatly affects you. We have truly valued our former Utah customers and are sad to say goodbye, but we are hopeful that a change in these overly strict state regulations will bring you back to White Cloud in the future.