Staff Columnist

Iowa bill could make vaping even more restricted than smoking

Smoking and vaping are not the same, no matter what Iowa lawmakers say

Jennie Ott of Cedar Rapids smokes in the alley next to Deb's, where she is a baker, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in Cedar
Jennie Ott of Cedar Rapids smokes in the alley next to Deb's, where she is a baker, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in Cedar Rapids. American Cancer Society advocates want Iowa lawmakers to consider raising the state cigarette tax again to discourage tobacco use above the current $1.36 a pack tax, which House Republicans rejected Wednesday. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

The bipartisan crusade to discard evidence and conflate smoking with vaping is on track to be codified in Iowa law.

Last week, legislative subcommittees advanced bills to impose new statewide restrictions on e-cigarettes and vaping products. It’s part of the bipartisan political establishment’s disproportionate response to the increase in e-cigarette use among young people, and the wildly misunderstood rash of vape-related illnesses last year.

The war on vapes is starting to look like the war on drugs

Predictably, dozens of lobbyists for organizations known for supporting drug prohibition are registered in support of the anti-vaping bills. These are the same people who routinely mislead us about other recreational substance use.

Iowa’s Tom Miller is the hero e-cigarette users need

One bill — Senate Study Bill 3016, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Roby Smith — would increase the age to possess tobacco and vapor products to 21. That follows up on a law signed by President Donald Trump to restrict nicotine sales to people 21 and up nationally.

The age increase is a stupid idea, but it falls within the prevailing national stupidity. Another bill under consideration, however, is a whole new level of stupid.

That bill — Senate Study Bill 3052, filed by the Department of Public Health — would include vapor products in the definition of smoking under Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act. That change would effectively ban vaping in public spaces, including some outdoor areas.

If the bill is passed, the opening to the Smokefree Air Act would be amended to say, “The general assembly finds that environmental tobacco smoke and vapor products cause and exacerbate disease in non-smoking adults and children.”

That statement is not supported by evidence. Scientists will continue to study the potential risks of secondhand vapor, but there’s no clear consensus about whether it’s harmful, and a great deal of doubt that it’s as harmful as tobacco smoke.

There is legitimate disagreement about the health hazards of vapor, but there is no doubt that secondhand vapor is vastly less offensive and penetrating than cigarette smoke.

The Smokefree Air Act, signed by Democrat Chet Culver in 2008, not only applies to bars and restaurants, but also nursing homes, small businesses and even some business vehicles. You can expect government busybodies will start encouraging landlords and assisted living facility managers to adopt anti-vaping policies, like they do with cigarettes.

Amazingly, this bill actually makes vaping more prohibited than smoking. While the Smokefree Air Act has an exception for smoking inside retail tobacco stores, SSB 3052 makes no such exemption for vaping in vape stores.

Predictably, dozens of lobbyists for organizations known for supporting drug prohibition are registered in support of the anti-vaping bills. These are the same people who routinely mislead us about other recreational substance use.

With the public vaping ban, legislators and bureaucrats are seeking to inject a government mandate into a situation the free market already handles quite well. The vast majority of businesses and indoor public spaces do not allow vaping. The small number of places, often bars, where vaping is allowed are easy to avoid if one prefers not to be around vape clouds.

Unfortunately, restrictions on personal behavior are easy to pass and difficult to repeal. If these bills become law, they may be permanent testaments to Iowa politicians’ know-nothing hubris.

Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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