2014-06-25 P-D OpEd: “Protecting kids from e-cigarettes: A common-sense approach”

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Mr. Ron Leone does a great job on behalf of those he’s paid to represent. Not so much on behalf of the public health and welfare.

Here’s an objectionable section in the new law pertaining to e-cigarettes:

3. Alternative nicotine products and vapor products shall only
be sold to persons eighteen years of age or older, shall be subject to
local and state sales tax, but shall not be otherwise taxed or regulated
as tobacco products.

In the past, Mr. Leone has worked successfully against several proposed increases in Missouri’s cigarette tax, motivated by concerns over a decrease in tobacco sales but hiding those reasons behind bogus arguments. (Please see a previous blog here: 2012-11-07 P-D: “Missouri keeps tobacco tax as the lowest in the nation”.)

Here’s the OpEd he wrote, published in yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, favoring Senate Bill 841 which is currently on Governor Nixon’s desk.

Ron Leone

Ron Leone

Protecting kids from e-cigarettes: A common-sense approach
June 25, 2014 12:00 am • Ronald J. Leone

“Alternative nicotine products” and “vapor products,” commonly and collectively referred to as “e-cigs,” have surged in popularity over the last several years. However, most Missourians would be surprised to learn that there are few if any laws on the books that regulate these new products, which means that today in Missouri children can lawfully purchase and use e-cigs.
         The Missouri Legislature, taking a common-sense, go-slow approach, recently passed Senate Bill 841. SB 841 does many good things, including:

• Defines and thus identifies alternative nicotine products and vapor products.

• Ensures that local and state sales taxes are paid and remitted when e-cigs are purchased.

• Most importantly, addresses youth access by prohibiting the sale of e-cigs to anyone under the age of 18.

         The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed draft e-cig rules that actually strengthen the case for SB 841. The main thrust of the FDA’s rules, at least with respect to actions the state of Missouri can take, is prohibiting the sale of e-cigs to minors under the age of 18, which ties in perfectly with the main goal of SB 841.
         In all likelihood, it will take many months if not years before the FDA’s proposed e-cig rules are finalized. Thankfully, the Missouri Legislature has wisely chosen not to wait and has proactively addressed the most important issues by passing SB 841 and prohibiting youth access to e-cigs.
         In addition, SB 841 specifically states that the additional taxing and regulating of e-cigs — after receiving additional information, guidance and science from the FDA and others — will be addressed in future years by the people through the Missouri Legislature and a change to the law and not by rules and regulations issued from on high by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.
         Several health care advocacy special interest groups actually opposed SB 841 because they felt the bill didn’t go far enough in terms of regulating and taxing e-cigs. They testified that they would rather see no bill pass in 2014, even though inaction would mean that 10-year-olds could continue to lawfully purchase and use e-cigs in Missouri.
         These special interest groups are now going so far as to urge Gov. Jay Nixon to veto SB 841 because the bill does not define and classify e-cigs as “tobacco products,” even though e-cigs contain nicotine but no tobacco.
         In politics, you should never let the desire for the perfect bill, which rarely if ever happens, keep you from supporting a good bill which moves the issue forward and promotes positive change in a realistic and measured way. Especially when any law can be changed at any time in the future by the people through their elected senators and representatives when and if new facts, science or federal guidelines warrant a change in the law.
         Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, and Reps. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, and Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, SB 841 passed by very strong votes in the Missouri Senate — 27 to 4 — and the Missouri House — 127 to 19.
         We urge Gov. Nixon to sign SB 841 into law. Once this is done, Missourians can be assured that a meaningful step has been taken to ensure that children are prohibited from purchasing and using e-cigs.

Ronald J. Leone is the executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, located in Jefferson City.

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