E-Cigarettes Face More Regulation, Taxation

LOS ANGELES and OLYMPIA, Wash. -- State and local officials are not waiting on the sidelines while the federal government continues to work on electronic cigarette regulation and taxation issues.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to include e-cigarettes in the city's current tobacco restrictions. By a 14-to-0 vote, city lawmakers banned "vaping" in most work sites and many public places, including parks and certain beaches. Lawmakers voted to continue allowing e-cigarette use in vaping lounges, where patrons can try the various e-juices that are loaded into the battery-powered devices, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In addition, council members narrowly defeated a push by the e-cigarette industry to let the practice of vaping continue in 21-and-over establishments, such as bars and nightclubs, the newspaper reported. The amendment received six votes, just two shy of the number needed for passage.

NJOY, maker of NJOY Kings electronic cigarettes, thanked the city council members for debating the issue. However, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company was disappointed with the outcome.

"We would like to thank the Los Angeles City Council for their debate and discussion on the issue of e-cigarettes in public places. And although we believe the final decision was made in the absence of credible science, it was a more reasonable and sensible approach than the original proposal," NJOY said in a statement to CSNews Online. "NJOY remains concerned, however, that banning e-cigarette use in public places could deter current tobacco smokers from using the products and thus disserves public health.  As a company, NJOY remains committed to obsoleting tobacco cigarettes."

Traveling north, Washington State officials are considering placing a tax on e-cigarettes. According to The Olympian, House Bill 2795 would place a 75-percent levy on electronic cigarettes and other tobacco substitutes. The measure, which was sponsored by state Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), has been approved by the House Finance Committee.

His original proposal called for a 95-percent tax, but the rate was reduced to 75 percent in the legislation that passed out of the committee Tuesday morning. Tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco are already subject to a 95-percent  tax on other tobacco products.

"An important part of the objective [of the legislation] is to equalize taxes and mitigate negative effects of the product," Carlyle said.

The proposed bill passed 7-to-6, with Rep. Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater) siding with Republican committee members against taxation. Reykdal said without data from the Food and Drug Administration, it is hard for him to justify punishing individuals trying to make a potentially healthier choice, the newspaper reported.

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