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California lawmakers kill measure to ban sale of e-cigarettes in vending machines

Publication Date: 2014-08-07
  • Author:Laurel Rosenhall
  • Publication:Sacramento Bee

A proposal to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes in California vending machines died in an Assembly committee Wednesday as both sides accused the other of advancing the interests of tobacco companies at the expense of public health.

Senate Bill 648 presented a confusing case in the ongoing debate over regulating the vapor devices that are marketed as smoke-free cigarettes. It also illustrated the influence tobacco companies -- which have expanded in recent years to include electronic cigarettes -- wield in the state Capitol. Tobacco company contributions to California Democrats have quadrupled over the last five years, a recent Sacramento Bee analysis found.

The bill by Sen. Ellen Corbett originally set out to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes -- also called vape pipes or hookah pens -- in the same places traditional cigarettes are banned.

The industry opposed that version of the bill..

But in rewriting the bill, Corbett inserted language that health advocates oppose. So when SB 648 came up in the Assembly Appropriations committee on Wednesday, she found herself on the opposite side of the table from advocates from the cancer, heart and lung associations. They said the new version of the bill would create a definition of electronic cigarettes that the industry could use to water down regulatory efforts at the federal level.

"I know you in your heart are trying to do the right thing...But there is a larger battle here," Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, said to Corbett during the hearing. "(The industry) would be happy to trade off a ban on vending machines in exchange for evading larger regulation with that definition."...

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