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Legislative Issues in the US

CASAA (the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association) has previewed the US legislative scene for the coming year. The organization foresees the salient issues of 2015, at the state level, to be taxes, child-resistant packaging, labeling requirements, restrictions or bans on internet sales, and place bans. At the federal level, the FDA deeming regulations and child-resistant packaging will dominate the scene.

Seven states are considering sin taxes on e-cigarettes. In Utah and Washington state, the Governor's budget proposal includes such measures, and the five other states considering tax bills: New Mexico (SB 65), Nevada (SB 79 and draft bill 307), Oregon (draft bills 1037 and 2268), New York (AB 296, a reconsideration of AB8594 from last year), and Indiana (where Representative Ron Bacon is introducing a draft bill).

CASAA intends to lobby hard against the notion that by making e-cigarette tax profits a part of state budgets, advocates would improve their position on other fronts. “Sin taxes are not a bargaining chip,” says CASAA. “They are inappropriate for this product category, and once the language is in the code, lawmakers will face little resistance when they decide to raise the tax to a more punitive level.”

On childproof packaging, the organization notes that regulation at the federal level will be preferable, since a patchwork of state and local restrictions will reduce consumer access by making it difficult to move products across state lines. But the federal machinery operates with glacial speed, and state action may have to take up the slack while the FDA delays. CASAA wishes to work with legislators to promote uniformity, and urges vapers to influence industry practice by purchasing from responsible suppliers. Bills and draft bills are on the dockets in Washington, California (SB24), and Missouri (HB 147). Labeling requirements also raise the issue of differing state restrictions that will ultimately restrict movement of products.

Bills are afoot in seven of the nine states that have not yet banned sale to minors. The danger here is that additional restrictions will be attached to such bills as riders. Three states (Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Oregon) have heeded lobbying by health advocacy groups to delay youth sales bans in the hope of more restrictive measures further down the road. States with youth sales bans on the docket this year are California (SB24), Indiana (Bacon's draft), Montana (draft bills 66 and 245), North Dakota (HB 1078), New Mexico (SB42), Texas (HB81, HB 170, and SB97), and Washington.

Place bans have been successful in municipalities -- the obvious examples are New York and Los Angeles -- but not at the state level. This year that could change in states like Kentucky (Board Resolution 127) and Indiana (draft bills being introduced by Representatives Ed Clere and Charlie Brown). Flavors loom as a legislative topic in the future. It is now on the agenda in Washington state and New York City.

The FDA should finalize deeming this year, targeting a date in June. But there are additional legislative hurdles at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), and CASAA still has calls to action afoot.

There is a bill on the US Senate agenda that deals with child-resistant packaging for e-liquids