I suppose it's easy to believe that a Utah lawmaker is trying to play nanny and take away your flavored nicotine-mist inhaler/ vaporizer/ atomizer e-cigarette thingies.
Not to worry. The panic that Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has hijacked the smokeless cigarette regulation effort this session may be, well, just smoke.
"I am in no way pushing an e-cigarette ban," Ray says. "I have my questions about the safety of them. But that wasn't my intent."
Rep. Ronda Rudd-Menlove, R-Garland, is pushing HB88, which does basic things like set an age limits on the purchase of electronic cigarettes, something Utah doesn't currently have. Ray is trying to ban nicotine candies, which he says have not hit Utah yet. He doesn't like them, you can probably guess, because candy appeals to kids. But he acknowledges the language of the bill would currently apply to so-called e-cigarettes as well. Smokeless cigarette manufacturers have been supportive of Rudd-Menlove's effort. But Ray's HB71, which seems to have been a bit misrepresented in some reports, has caused more panic.
Consider the worried call I had today from Jeff Rhodes, of Green Nicotine (Full disclosure: Green Nicotine is a City Weekly advertiser).
"Earlier this week when they were voting on it, Paul Ray stood up and basically through the motion of getting rid of flavored snuffs, he then threw in smokeless tobacco and banning it completely and getting it gone," Rhodes said.
Ray acknowledges that the consequences of his bill as it currently is written are wider than he intended, but he said he expects a motion to exclude e-cigarettes from it when it comes to the House floor, perhaps as soon as Monday.
Editorializing bottom line: With all due respect to Ray, I'm not sure nicotine candies are a menace worthy of a ban. Just Google "nicotine candy." There's a heckuva lot more news and bluster about nicotine candy than there is actual nicotine candy. But, whatev. There's some sense in nipping things pre-bud, too.
Though he said smokeless cigarettes "probably are ... a better alternative" to smokey cigarettes, he seemed wishy-washy about defending them. That is to say, if the rest of the Legislature gets caught up in ban-mode, I don't think he'll do much--if anything--to stop the wave. In case you're worried about any chicanery, I've known Ray for a few years. Say what you will about his politics, he's pretty straight forward. If he wanted to ban e-cigarettes, he would probably be out-loud and proud about it. Maybe some day in the future he will pursue that policy. But I doubt that will be this year based on my convo with him. If this turns out to be some kind of trick, however, I'll eat my words faster than Kobayashi eats hotdogs.