Published February 1, 2021

For years, The Heartland Institute has supported the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices as alternatives for tobacco users. Despite fearmongering, the use of vapor products is significantly safer than traditional cigarettes, as noted by numerous public health groups including the American Cancer Society.

The Montana Legislature will be deciding on the potential to remove nicotine-product and indoor vaping regulations. House Bill 137, is new legislation introduced by Rep. Ron Marshall (R-Hamilton), who has personal experience with the sale of vape products, as owner of a vaping retail chain. 

If passed, the bill would cancel previous regulations that counties and cities including Missoula have enacted banning indoor vaping or the sale of flavored nicotine solutions.”

Owners in the vape industry, like many other small businesses, have been hit by the devastating lockdowns from COVID-19. Nearly 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed shop since the start of the lockdowns. Now is the time to unleash the American economy and allow individuals to provide for themselves. 

“Everyone else behind me that owns vape shops, runs vape shops, believes in vape, they share and have the same mission as myself and my family to help the people who everyone has forgot about, the daily smokers,” testified Keith Bowman, part owner and general manager of a group of six e-cigarette vape stores in Montana. 

In 2021, there will be a major opportunity for governments to reverse intrusive regulations and start anew. According to the Vapor Technology Association, the economic impact the industry created in 2018 within the state includes 313 direct vaping-related jobs, including manufacturing, retail, and wholesale, which generated $11 million in wages alone. Sales of disposables and prefilled cartridges in Montana exceeded $719,000 in 2016. Not only are the economic contributions from the industry substantial, but the health results show that e-cigarettes are twice as effective in helping smokers kick the habit of tobacco use. 

Opponents of the bill argue that communities will lose control over the market locally, and that youth will be more susceptible to vape products. Yet, “between January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administered 2,214 tobacco age compliance inspections in Montana, in which the agency used a minor in an attempt to purchase tobacco products. Of those, 76, or 3 percent, resulted in a sale to a minor. Of the violations, 26 (34 percent of violations and 1 percent of all compliance checks) involved the sale of e-cigarettes or vaping devices. The number of violations involving sales of cigars and cigarettes were 20 and 25, respectively, during the same period.”

It would be unwise for the state to issue bans on any products that help adults quit smoking. And in regard to youth vaping, Montana currently dedicates very little of existing moneys towards programs that could deter youth from using e-cigarettes. For example, in 2019, Montana received an estimated $108.5 million in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.  In the same year, the Treasure State dedicated only $5 million, or 0.04 percent, of state funding towards tobacco control programs, including education and prevention.

E-cigarettes and vaping products are tools individuals can use to reduce tobacco use. The economic impact this legislation would have on families and communities across the state could be life changing for some. For years, lawmakers have created taxes and regulations to combat tobacco, and now vape use. Simply put, these laws don’t work and hurt local communities. Lawmakers ought to look to lifting regulations that create barriers between the public, their health, and their pocketbook. 


The following documents provide more information on e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction.

Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: A Guidebook for Policymakers
This booklet from The Heartland Institute aims to provide much-needed information to key stakeholders on the benefits of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. Tobacco Harm Reduction 101 details the history of e-cigarettes, including regulatory actions on these products. The booklet also explains the role of nicotine, addresses tax policy and debunks many of the myths associated with e-cigarettes, including assertions about “popcorn lung,” formaldehyde, and the so-called youth vaping epidemic.


Research & Commentary: Flavor Bans Do Not Reduce Youth E-Cigarette Use–commentary-flavor-bans-do-not-reduce-youth-e-cigarette-use
In this Research & Commentary, State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examines the California Youth Tobacco Survey results from 2017-18, finding youth vaping has increased in several California localities that have restricted access to flavored tobacco product. Stroud finds youth vaping has increased in both Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. Stroud also notes that banning flavored e-cigarettes is likely to reduce the number of adult smokers switching from combustible cigarettes to tobacco harm reduction devices and could lead former smokers back to cigarettes.


Research & Commentary: Study Reports Health Benefits from E-cigarette Use
In June 2016, the British Medical Journal published a study that examined electronic cigarette use after 24 months. Finding a 40 percent disparity between smokers who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking and smokers who did not use e-cigarettes, the authors found, “[E]-cigarette use alone might support tobacco quitters remaining abstinent from smoking.” In this Research & Commentary, Government Relations Coordinator Lindsey Stroud argues the growing body of evidence suggests the Food and Drug Administration may have been too hasty in its May 2016 decision to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products.


Vaping, E-Cigarettes, and Public Policy Toward Alternatives to Smoking
For decades, lawmakers and regulators have used taxes, bans, and burdensome regulations as part of their attempt to reduce the negative health effects of smoking. Recently, some have sought to extend those policies to electronic cigarettes. This booklet from The Heartland Institute urges policymakers to re-think that tax-and-regulate strategy. Policymakers should be mindful of the extensive research that supports tobacco harm reduction and understand that bans, excessive regulations, and high taxes on e-cigarettes often encourage smokers to continue using more-harmful traditional cigarette products.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute’s website, contact the government relations team, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.