Rhode Island Senate Committee Ignores E-Cig Bill

Published September 14, 2017

The Rhode Island Senate Committee on Health and Human Services met in September without considering a bill to add e-cigarettes to the state’s tobacco ban.

Senate Bill 466 (SB 446) would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in bars and restaurants, privately owned businesses, government-owned buildings, and other designated locations.

SB 446, sponsored by state Sen. Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Providence), was approved by the Rhode Island House of Representatives on June 21. Instead of scheduling the bill for a floor vote, the Senate voted on June 28 to resend SB 446 to the Committee on Health and Human Services, just six days before the state’s General Assembly adjourned for the summer.

SB 446 had already been approved by the Senate committee in May.

The state Senate Committee on Health and Human Services scheduled a September 14 meeting, but SB 446 was not listed on the agenda at press time.

Similar but Safer

Justin Katz, research director for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, says discouraging vaping, or use of e-cigarettes, means many people will use tobacco instead.

“The durability of smoking, as a habit, proves that it fills some psychological and cultural needs,” Katz said. “Vaping has come closer than anything else to filling those needs in a safer way, so discouraging vaping has the effect of propping up tobacco products and continuing their feasibility.”

Harm Reduction and Health

Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, says e-cigarettes are a much better choice than tobacco cigarettes.

“E-cigarettes significantly reduce the harm and risk of tobacco-related products and disease,” Stier said. “We just do not know whether it is by 95 percent, or more.

“However, we do know that the use of e-cigarettes as a replacement for smoking is significantly advantageous to health,” Stier said. “The reason is that we have long known that smoking is dangerous because of the chemicals that are produced from the combustion of the tobacco. With e-cigarettes, not only is there no tobacco, most importantly, there is no combustion.”

Bad for Public Health

Making it more difficult to use e-cigarettes is contrary to governments’ stated public-health goals, Stier says.

“Ultimately, the consequence of this legislation is that there will be fewer incentives for people to do the right thing and stop smoking with the aid of these products,” Stier said. “So not only will a public-place vaping ban be inconsistent with the facts, but it is also inconsistent with the overall public health mission.”