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Blast from the past: Tobacco lobby ramming through deceptive bill that endangers kids

E-cig [1]You’ve got to hand it to the tobacco corporations and their high-priced lobbyists; when it comes to deceptive messaging and tactics, no one does it better than the merchants of death.  Apparently, nearly a century of practice really does make perfect in developing lies and half-truths and massaging them into feel-good media messages and legislation.

Consider the latest case in point in North Carolina. Big tobacco is currently ramming through legislation [2] in both houses of the General Assembly that sounds as if it is all about motherhood and apple pie. The bill (which as been introduced and advanced in both the Senate and the House at the behest of the industry) operates under the title: “Prohibit E-Cigarette Sales to Minors.” 

“Electronic cigarettes” of “E-Cigarettes,” [3]  as you probably have heard, are just the latest  tool for delivering life-threatening poison (i.e. addictive nicotine) to humans. E-cigs are already being advertised throughout the country as a hip and semi-safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. They’re already finding their way into schools and other places young people look for ways to be cool.   

Prohibiting their sale to kids sounds like a good idea, huh?

Unfortunately, while the bill in question has some good aspects, the tobacco industry has, as is their wont, skillfully inserted provisions that will make it harder for public health officials to rein in the little poison sticks going forward.

You see, rather than defining E-cigs and other tobacco derived “vapor products” as “tobacco products” as they should be, the bill would establish a whole new, separate definition.  According to the experts at the N.C. Alliance for Health [4], this is a terrible idea:

“As it is currently written, SB 530/HB 864 will confuse and complicate the enforcement of existing and future tobacco control laws by excluding electronic-cigarettes, vapor products and other tobacco-derived products from the existing universal definition of “tobacco products” in North Carolina law.

 E-cigarettes should not be defined differently from other tobacco products because they are, after all, just another in a long list of “tobacco products” developed by the industry. The best way to protect public health is to simply include them in the existing definition of “tobacco products” and allow our existing tobacco regulations to protect the public’s health, just as existing regulations protect the public’s health from all the other tobacco products on the market.

 Creating a separate definition for e-cigarettes and vapor products will call into question all of NC’s existing laws and whether they apply to these new emerging products.”

For instance, state law currently bans “tobacco products” on public school campuses. By exempting E-cigs from this definition, sponsors of the bill may actually facilitate their introduction into these and other inappropriate venues.

Of course, the tobacco lobby — led in part by powerful Republican politico and Reynolds American lobbyist Tom Fetzer [5]— is deftly deflecting these criticisms and avoiding any kind of meaningful dialogue with health advocates. This week, Fetzer and his crew slipped the bill through the Senate with scarcely a peep of opposition. The House version of the bill is already scheduled for a hearing in a Judiciary subcommittee next Monday afternoon.  

The bottom line: As in just about every other area this year in the General Assembly, the forces of corporate greed are triumphing over the common good and the well-being of our kids. Let’s hope lawmakers and Governor McCrory wake up to this cynical scam ASAP.