Originally Published: January 9, 2019 8:58 p.m.
Generations of Americans smoked cigarettes, and tobacco use accounts for nearly one-half million deaths each year, according to the American Lung Association.
Since 1964, smoking-related illnesses have claimed more than 20 million lives in the United States, with those numbers including more than 2.5 million people who were nonsmokers.
It is no surprise then that two efforts are underway to change Arizona law when it comes to vaping products.
These devices – the smoking device as well as their inserts carrying the liquids that deliver nicotine – would subject everyone from manufacturers to retailers, as well as users, to the same laws that now make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 18.
The big rub is that vaping products were first designed and marketed as a substitute to smoking tobacco, with the goal of getting the person to stop altogether. However, many of the liquids used in these devices have nicotine levels far higher than anyone would get from tobacco products themselves, said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.
“Due to slick hypermarketing campaigns, most students think that these products pose no risk,’’ said Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek. That has boosted teen vaping in Arizona, with surveys of high schoolers showing that the use within the past month went from 17 percent in 2016 to 26 percent last year.
“Essentially, e-cigarettes, vapes, e-pens or whatever else you want to call them, have become the training wheels to develop future smokers,’’ she said.
Current Arizona law is fatally flawed and ineffective as it relates to vaping products and teens. Senate Bill 1009 would provide sharp improvements. At a minimum it would allow the Attorney General’s Office, which now runs “sting’’ operations on retailers to see if they’re checking for ID on cigarette purchases, the power to do the same when someone is selling vaping devices and liquid refills.
A second measure (House Bill 2024), crafted by Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, would add vaping to existing laws that prohibit smoking in public areas, including offices, bars, restaurants, stores, theaters and the common areas of hotels and apartments. That bill would amend the original Smoke Free Arizona Act, approved by voters in 2006; meaning, it can be changed only if the proposal passes by three-fourths of both the House and Senate.
Vaping products should be under the same rules as tobacco – both the devices used as well as the inserts that carry the liquids that deliver the nicotine.
The same laws should be applied to vaping products, their manufacturers and retailers, where they can be used and by whom.
Our state needs to take these steps toward protecting and educating teens and other at-risk users to the dangers of vaping. Because it’s not “smoking,” the true risks are often hidden or misunderstood.