Commentary

The nanny state wants to take away your vape

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Lawmakers on Maine’s Health and Human Services Committee held a public hearing Wednesday on LD 2052, “An Act To Enact Restrictions on Electronic Smoking Devices and New Tobacco Products.” The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett, would ban the sale of electronic smoking devices and nicotine liquids.

Under the bill, these and other tobacco products could not be sold until federal regulators approve vape products as an “evidence-based tobacco cessation strategy.”

LD 2052 is government intervention at its worst. The bill prohibits individuals from selling, furnishing or giving away electronic smoking devices and nicotine liquid while only authorizing their sale, furnishing and gifting by tobacco retailers and marijuana stores after Maine’s bureaucracy creates rules based on federal research and regulations. Put simply, this bill gives the federal and state government more control over the day-to-day lives of Maine citizens. 

Maine businesses should not be required to wait for the government bureaucracy to approve whether they can sell electronic smoking devices. As long as individuals and businesses are not selling these devices to minors, they should be able to continue to do so without new permission slips from the State of Maine or the federal government. 

LD 2052 would require tobacco retailers to wait until the United States Food and Drug Administration approves the use of electronic smoking devices as a tobacco cessation strategy and creates regulations relating to the manufacturing, testing, sale and use of electronic smoking devices. While the decision to use electronic smoking devices may be deemed unhealthy, legal adults should have the ability to use them if they so choose. 

While proponents of vaping regulations claim electronic smoking devices alone cause lung injuries, those assertions are largely overhyped. In fact, the federal government found vitamin E acetate, a sticky substance that clings to lung tissue and is typically found as a “thickening agent” in vaping products that contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the likely culprit for most of the lung injuries in the United States, not nicotine liquids or vaping products in general. Despite this, LD 2052 would put restrictions on all electronic smoking devices and nicotine liquid in the state. 

Moreover, cigarettes are responsible for 480,000 deaths, or about 20 percent of all deaths annually, in the United States. According to Public Health England (PHE), using vape products is 95 percent safer than smoking cigarettes. The United Kingdom is actively trying to get smokers to quit through the use of vape products. In other words, electronic smoking devices, which are relatively safe compared to cigarettes, would be more restricted than deadly cigarettes. This type of regulation simply does not pass the straight face test. 

A more responsible way to contain lung injury would be to limit ways in which vitamin E acetate is used in these products. The chemical may be safe to use in skin lotions, but it’s dangerous for individuals to inhale into their lungs. In addition, enforcing current laws to keep electronic smoking devices out of the hands of minors would protect individual liberty while mitigating the use of vaping products among minors.

LD 2052 is a step too far and should be rejected by lawmakers this session.

About Adam Crepeau

Adam Crepeau serves as a policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at acrepeau@mainepolicy.org.

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