When the Alaska Legislature reconvenes next month, one policy change sure to be debated is the addition of “e-cigarette” to the definition of “smoking” in Alaska statute.
Senator Pete Micciche (R-Kenai) sponsored SB1, which redefines “smoking” to mean the use of an e-cigarette or other oral smoking device. The bill has been referred to Senate Finance Committee, after passing out of the HSS and State Affairs Committees last session. On the House side, Rep. Bob Herron (D-Bethel) sponsored HB40, addressing the use of electronic cigarettes as smoking, which now sits in the Judiciary Committee.
Whether responding to a new definition of electronic cigarettes at the state level, or commenting on proposed federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations requiring approval to sell nearly all flavored liquid nicotine juices and electronic devices, the eCig industry definitely has its work cut out for it in 2016.
Enter “Clear the Air Alaska” (CTAA), a new trade association to advocate for the electronic cigarette businesses and vaping clients in Alaska. The new trade association is comprised of Alaskan vape and electronic cigarette business owners.
“Our mission is to inform the public, policymakers and members of the health industry about benefits of electronic cigarettes, while correcting misinformation surfacing from anti-tobacco and pro-tobacco advocacies,” said Acey Priest, CTAA’s new executive director.
Priest explains that a “smoking” definition statute change, to include electronic cigarettes, will limit use, invoke a frenzy of taxes and fees, and essentially destroy the entire industry in Alaska. Add to the dialogue the federal regulation proposal mandating certification of every eLiquid used in vaping devices and suddenly a cost between $2 to $10 million will be incurred per item (eLiquid flavor) for approval.
Priestly says the scientific process for double-blind, multi-year, comprehensive testing is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. “You don’t see vitamin and herbal supplements, nor herbal teas pegged as remedial of diseases and health-promoting, going through expensive research because no one can afford the price tag. Clearly electronic cigarette liquids fall in the same category. Force $2 million or more for testing each and every liquid we sell, and the industry collapses.”
“We have Commissioner Valerie Davidson with the Department of Health and Social Services telling Alaskans electronic cigarettes ‘are just as harmful, and perhaps more harmful, than smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco.’ This is absolutely inaccurate and lacks factual backup,” added Priest.
Priest views FDA, state legislative and HSS Department efforts relating to electronic cigarettes as an infringement on a burgeoning industry that is saving lives. E-cigs are a practical alternative to the combustion, smoke and tar-laden results from smoking tobacco she contends.
Americans for Tax Reform’s president, Grover Norquist, recently wrote to congressional leaders in Washington DC appealing to lawmakers to move the date when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will compel all electronic cigarette products that came out after February 15, 2007 to undergo the costly Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTA), arguing that this imposes a nearly “impossible burden” on vaping shops.
“All of our board members and executive director have lost loved ones, family members or friends to tobacco-related illnesses and diseases, or remain supportive of those who are suffering today from such illnesses,” added Matt Waggoner, CTAA’s president. “The reality is electronic cigarettes are a safer, reasonable alternative to cigarette and chewing tobacco use, and may be the catalyst to stopping smoking completely.”
Time will tell what regulators, policymakers, and bureaucrats will do with the electronic cigarette industry. Clear the Air Alaska plans to be a consumer advocate and sentinel for the industry.
“Electronic cigarettes are far healthier than tobacco cigarettes,” says Priest. “And this is not just a business to me,” notes Priest. “Both of my parents died from smoking-related illnesses and they’d probably be here today, celebrating Christmas with me, if electronic cigarettes were available and not regulated out of business. I hope I can make a difference in advocating for a product that will save lives, and with an industry that actually cares about people more than profit.”