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Utah Legislature: Merits of e-cigarettes debated

SALT LAKE CITY — In his zeal to keep Utahns away from the hazards of nicotine, a state lawmaker could be putting thousands of smokers trying to quit in harm's way, a group promoting electronic cigarettes that would be banned by HB71 said Monday.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, would sooner have people using the most dangerous source of nicotine — cigarettes — than allow smokers a way to get nicotine through a smokeless device that doesn't come with the thousands of toxic compounds in burning tobacco, said a spokesman for the National Vapors Club (www.vapersclub.com.)

The battery-powered, reusable e-cigarettes heat a small vile of liquid nicotine enough to vaporize it but not enough to cause it to smoke, said group spokesman Spike Babaian. The bill embodies the widespread but incorrect notion that nicotine and smoking are the same things and pose the same health hazards, he said.

While it is true that people smoke mostly because of nicotine, Babaian said, nicotine generally is a stimulant that acts like caffeine in the bloodstream and that people who inhale it by smoking tobacco die mostly because of the tars and other cancer-causing compounds absorbed from the smoke. (tobaccoharmreduction.org.)

Ray said quibbling over which of the many poisons found in tobacco is more hazardous to human health is an attempt to muddle the issue. That fact is nicotine is a powerful poison that is a very effective pesticide, and the amount of it contained in five cigarettes or half a cigar would potentially kill an adult and definitely be fatal to an infant if were absorbed all at once and no medical care were provided, he said.

Babaian said passage of the bill would take away a life-saving choice for Utah smokers, and it leaves smokers who have already successfully switched to electronic cigarettes in an impossible situation.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see which is the better choice," he said. (The bill) is inhumane, and it certainly isn't in the interest of public health."

e-mail: jthalmam@desnews.com