Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller introduced a legislative proposal Friday aimed at regulating the sale of electronic cigarettes and limiting their accessibility to young Hoosiers.
The bill would allow “vape shops” – which currently have little regulation or governmental oversight– to be regulated and licensed by the state’s Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. Electronic cigarettes would also be taxed the same as traditional tobacco products – 24 percent of the wholesale price – and included in Indiana’s statewide smoking ban.
“E-cigarette shops are now springing up all over our cities and at street corners around our state,” Zoeller said. “The lack of any regulation at this point has really made this a huge area of expansion, again without much knowledge of some of the future problems we might expect. We are here today to stop this trend in its tracks and we all refuse to stand by as a new generation gets (hooked) on nicotine.”
Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, and Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, have each agreed to sponsor the legislation in the House, and Sen. Patricia Miller, R- Indianapolis, will sponsor a companion bill in the Senate.
“We think this is the right package to introduce to address the emerging threat of e-cigarettes,” Clere said.
The proposed bill also requires e-liquid containers used in electronic cigarettes to be sold in child-restraint packaging to prevent the consumption of the liquid by children.
Zoeller said no one knows for sure how harmful the vapor emitted by e-cigarettes can be to an individual, but those who smoke them are likely to become addicted to the nicotine in the e-liquid.
Instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes heat liquid containing nicotine into vapor that can be smoked, and these devices are currently illegal for those under the age of 18 to possess.
“There is probably no question that e-cigs are safer than combustible cigarettes, but the jury is still out on how safe they are,” Clere said. “Fact is, all the research suggests they are not safe, strictly speaking, and they do present a tremendous new public health hazard to our youth.”
A recent study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that more teenagers used electronic nicotine products than traditional cigarettes in 2014.
Zoeller said he is also concerned with the ability of young adults to insert any type of drug into the device to smoke.
“Let’s all be clear that e-cigarettes are a new drug-delivery device,” Zoeller said. “We are already seeing thir use with THC from marijuana, and other synthetic drugs that we’ve been battling here in Indiana. All of these can be ‘vaped’ instead of smoked, and no one would be able to guess which drug is being ingested.”
Clere said the projected income of the proposed tax on e-cigarettes has not yet been calculated, but will be made public by the time the bill is formally introduced in the House.
Jacob Rund is the assistant editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.