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Oklahoma—OK!

Good news from Oklahoma again.

Channel 2 in Tulsa (KJRH) reports on a bill being sent to the state legislature that would, if passed, distinguish between vaping products and lethal cigarettes for taxation purposes. This means that, while electronic cigarettes would continue to be taxed as consumer goods, just like lava lamps and whoopee cushions, vapers would not have to pay the punitive excise taxes added to cigarettes as a means of deterring use. The state of Oklahoma would allow citizens to use whatever safe means they choose for smoking cessation, without paying the prohibitive amounts they paid when they smoked toxic cigarettes. Oklahoma may turn out to be one of the better places to quit smoking, and it is to be hoped that, if this bill passes, long term studies of death rates from cancer and heart disease will be put into place to measure the state's inevitable downward curve.

This presupposes that the Food and Drug Administration will not nip this life-saving measure in the bud by imposing punitive cigarette taxes on vaping products at the federal level.

The news gets better. The Oklahoma legislative effort in question is not sponsored by Big Tobacco! It comes from a coalition of vape shop owners. This is a development of signal importance, as the Big Tobacco companies, while continuing to market lethal cigarettes, are attempting, not only to nose in on e-cig sales revenues, but also to present themselves as a voice for the vaping community. News media in Ohio have reported that a bill to ban sale of e-cigs to minors (which everyone in the industry supports) has been authored by cigarette juggernaut Lorillard in an effort to create a legal distinction between e-cigs and toxic ones that would result in the same taxation differentiation.

The background on this issue is that everyone has been expecting Big Tobacco to ride roughshod over the small companies with clean hands (no marketing of lethal products) that sprang up during the early years of e-cig development. If punitive regulations are put in place, Big Tobacco can afford them, small startups can't. So if the FDA, Britain's MRHA, and the EU impose restrictive rules and taxes, they will be handing the industry to cigarette-selling Big Tobacco, and wiping out a lot of little companies that started up to meet people's needs. And if Big Tobacco succeeds in touting itself as the voice of the vaping community, the fantasies of anti-smoking groups will appear to be justified. Anti-vaping zealots like Stanton Glantz are already starting to imply that Big Tobacco speaks for vapers.

There are grounds for anticipating popular resistance to this development. Vapers don't like Big Tobacco; cigarettes are what they're trying to get away from. Increasingly, they use “cigalikes” (e-cigs that look like cigarettes) only at first, and graduate to personal vaporizers and “mods” (modified units) as they become more sophisticated, and as they no longer need a product that mimics smoking to enhance the cessation effort. Cigalikes are made both by BT and by some clean hands companies, but BT tends to make only cigalikes, while the little guys (the clean-hands companies threatened by BT dominance) tend to offer a diversified range of products. With increasing recognition of which products are marketed by BT (Vuse, Vype, MarkTen, Blu, Green, and a few others), consumer awareness may turn the tide toward the clean-hands products (too many to mention here).

That's why it's significant that the Oklahoma initiative, like a similar legislative push in Nebraska, is backed by a coalition of vape shops, rather than by megalithic cigarette-selling companies.

If only the regulators could make a distinction between clean hands companies and cigarette sellers as they set up taxation structures. Health advocacy zealots rail about “dual use”, insisting that only immediate and complete smoking cessation is righteous enough to meet their standards. How about persuading them to oppose the “dual abuse” involved in marketing both poison and its antidote?

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