Oklahoma Bill SB 802 Might be on Hold, but It’s a Stark Warning

By Dave S. Posted March 28, 2013

Oklahoma Bill to Impose Tax on E-Cigarettes
Oklahoma Senator Rob Johnson

Oklahoma Senator Rob Johnson’s proposed bill to impose a small tax on e-cigarettes, formally ban their sale to minors and require any vendors to be licensed seems like a harmless and sensible piece of legislation on first reading about it. However, there is a darker vein lurking in the densely layered legalese and clunky phrases like “vapor products,” since the bill would also make it illegal to buy e-cigarettes online and for sellers in the state to buy their products from anybody other than Oklahoma-based distributor or wholesaler. This would essentially cripple small businesses and drastically impact on the availability of e-cigs in the state.

 

Thankfully, the bill was so badly constructed, that although it snuck through the Oklahoma Senate, the House Public Health Committee won’t even give it a hearing. This was reported by CASAA, who also issued a call to action in response to the bill, but actually missed it going through at the state Senate. The reason for this is the most disturbing part of this story, and it opens a door to a whole world of political trickery. The plain and terrifying truth is that politicians like Senator Johnson are adept at sneaking legislation past the public eye in this way, to the point where it had passed at state before one of the leading consumer advocacy groups had even heard about it.

 

So how did he do it? Well, the most obvious way these types of things evade the public eye is because they’re written in such purposefully dense and impenetrable language. The term “vapor product” to represent the widely used term “electronic cigarette” – which is included in the definitions of “vapor product” and nowhere else – is a perfect illustration of this issue.  It’s almost as if the language is purposefully constructed so that it is never quite clear what is being discussed. Actually reading through the whole bill is an impressive feat; thanks to the repetitive and linguistically-challenged way it’s presented. This issue obviously spans much wider than the world of e-cigs, but it’s clearly worth mentioning.

 

The biggest problem, however, is what enabled it to escape the radar of CASAA and other industry groups. The initial draft of the bill was only four pages long and made no mention whatsoever of electronic cigarettes. With no warning whatsoever, it was quietly replaced with a 34-page monstrosity with the potential to cripple e-cigs across the state. If it wasn’t for the Oklahoma House Public Health Committee rejecting it out of hand, there could well have been legislature passed which imposed taxes and absurd regulations on the industry without anybody really knowing anything about it.

 

The story doesn’t really lend itself well to positive interpretations. You might argue that the initial draft seemed good at first yet in the end absolutely needed to be made around eight times as long and drastically changed, but this doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. It is evidently a move deliberately constructed to avoid the expected and wholly reasonable backlash against these plans.

 

Although it’s been thankfully held up, it will probably be back at some point. CASAA is still encouraging Oklahoma residents to write to members of the House Public Health Committee, and has suggested that Senator Johnson pretty much strip down the entire bill to simply ban the sale of e-cigs to minors. Whether he will take this advice is unsure, but the entire story should sound alarm bells in the heads of vapers across the country. Legislation on e-cigarettes is coming, and we in the community should be on the lookout for any other attempts to sneak regulations in through the back door.

 

  • Glenn Nelms

    I agree that our under age youth should not have access to these devices but, I am also conflicted in this area since many of our youth are addicted to cigarettes already. Look, this all boils down to a loss of revenue in the form of sin tax for the state of Oklahoma and reduced revenue to big tobacco because people are giving up cigarettes. All this hoopla about caring for the health of consumers is hogwash…it’s all about the almighty dollar. As far as the argument that this bill is to prevent underage teens from access to e-cigs, this also is hogwash. As everyone knows or should know, teens smoke cigarettes and purchase them through establishments that do not check id or parents and friends buy them for them. Because some teens smoke cigarettes anyway and cigarettes clearly are poison, I would much prefer teens quit smoking even if it means they turn to vaping. Isn’t vaping a healthier alternative anyway? In my opinion, this is a no brainer. Vaping is not tobacco, it is only nicotine without the thousands of harmful additives that cigarettes contain. Vaping has helped many be released from the grip of tobacco which, is what I thought the health industry wanted to happen but lets face it, if everyone quits smoking cigarettes big tobacco companies lose revenue, hospitals lose money from sin taxes to fund research and pay for care given to those whom do not have coverage for tobacco related illnesses, and lastly the pharmaceutical companies lose sales on products such as, nicotine gum, patches and pills that are pushed to help people quit smoking which by the way, obviously do not work for all who have tried them. I have been a smoker of thirty five years and have quit a thousand times without success until I started vaping two months ago. Since that time, I no longer crave cigarettes nor do I ever want to touch another one; they stink, taste horrible and are not allowed everywhere besides the fact, they lead to disease and kill many people every year. I bought my vaping product and paid retail sales taxes on my purchases–I believe this is enough. If the government and health industry truly cared about the public’s health, wouldn’t they stand with the vaping industry and encourage people to vape instead of smoking cigarettes without gouging people for more money because of a loss in sin tax revenue? Government, the FDA, big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies can dress this anyway they want but the fact remains, this is all about money not the welfare of public health.

  • Beth Menasco

    Dave S was dead-on in his piece above and I loved Glenn’s viewpoint on SB 802. Folks behind the scenes, however, say that Johnson made some friends and now they WILL hear the bill on Tuesday April 9th! Gotta love lying politicians! The only part that is missing from what the folks wrote above is who helped Johnson create the gigantic, difficult to read, difficult to interpret Bill that is up for vote in Oklahoma. It’s the real reason this Bill should have vapers across America shaking in their boots. RJ Reynolds. The end goal? To be the only vendor authorized to sell vaping products and ecigarettes in as many states as possible. They are sour grapes because they didn’t come up with vaping first. They saw vaping getting ready to overpower their slow-to-market boring ecigs that nobody is going to want, as well as their cancer sticks. So how do they combat that? How do they force us to buy their ecigs so that they don’t have to go belly up? They try and scare everyone. Try and make everyone think vaping needs to be over-regulated like their coffin nails. Get in bed with politicians like Johnson who are just gullible puppets who have lost interest in the people who put him in office. And finally, try to convince us that we should trust them – again. Are you serious?! http://www.transformtobacco.com This is RJ Reynolds – check out the About Us section. If you click on the yellow states they hand-hold your way to writing to your reps and newspapers and supporting whatever rhetoric they feed to you. It’s criminal! They pretend that there is a huge problem because there is no legal vaping age – a complete front for their ultimate goal: To get their tobacco money back, even if it means putting 1000s of Americans and Oklahomans who developed the vape market honestly and professionally out of business. These skunks have tripled the number of lobbyists in Oklahoma in the last week, trying to shove their Bill through. This is going to happen in States all over the US. Which one of YOUR state elected Senators or Representatives is being courted by Big Tobacco?

  • Glenn Nelms

    I agree that our under age youth should not have access to these devices but, I am also conflicted in this area since many of our youth are addicted to cigarettes already. Look, this all boils down to a loss of revenue in the form of sin tax for the state of Oklahoma and reduced revenue to big tobacco because people are giving up cigarettes. All this hoopla about caring for the health of consumers is hogwash…it’s all about the almighty dollar. As far as the argument that this bill is to prevent underage teens from access to e-cigs, this also is hogwash. As everyone knows or should know, teens smoke cigarettes and purchase them through establishments that do not check id or parents and friends buy them for them. Because some teens smoke cigarettes anyway and cigarettes clearly are poison, I would much prefer teens quit smoking even if it means they turn to vaping. Isn’t vaping a healthier alternative anyway? In my opinion, this is a no brainer. Vaping is not tobacco, it is only nicotine without the thousands of harmful additives that cigarettes contain. Vaping has helped many be released from the grip of tobacco which, is what I thought the health industry wanted to happen but lets face it, if everyone quits smoking cigarettes big tobacco companies lose revenue, hospitals lose money from sin taxes to fund research and pay for care given to those whom do not have coverage for tobacco related illnesses, and lastly the pharmaceutical companies lose sales on products such as, nicotine gum, patches and pills that are pushed to help people quit smoking which by the way, obviously do not work for all who have tried them. I have been a smoker of thirty five years and have quit a thousand times without success until I started vaping two months ago. Since that time, I no longer crave cigarettes nor do I ever want to touch another one; they stink, taste horrible and are not allowed everywhere besides the fact, they lead to disease and kill many people every year. I bought my vaping product and paid retail sales taxes on my purchases–I believe this is enough. If the government and health industry truly cared about the public’s health, wouldn’t they stand with the vaping industry and encourage people to vape instead of smoking cigarettes without gouging people for more money because of a loss in sin tax revenue? Government, the FDA, big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies can dress this anyway they want but the fact remains, this is all about money not the welfare of public health.

  • Beth Menasco

    Dave S was dead-on in his piece above and I loved Glenn’s viewpoint on SB 802. Folks behind the scenes, however, say that Johnson made some friends and now they WILL hear the bill on Tuesday April 9th! Gotta love lying politicians! The only part that is missing from what the folks wrote above is who helped Johnson create the gigantic, difficult to read, difficult to interpret Bill that is up for vote in Oklahoma. It’s the real reason this Bill should have vapers across America shaking in their boots. RJ Reynolds. The end goal? To be the only vendor authorized to sell vaping products and ecigarettes in as many states as possible. They are sour grapes because they didn’t come up with vaping first. They saw vaping getting ready to overpower their slow-to-market boring ecigs that nobody is going to want, as well as their cancer sticks. So how do they combat that? How do they force us to buy their ecigs so that they don’t have to go belly up? They try and scare everyone. Try and make everyone think vaping needs to be over-regulated like their coffin nails. Get in bed with politicians like Johnson who are just gullible puppets who have lost interest in the people who put him in office.

    And finally, try to convince us that we should trust them – again. Are you serious?! http://www.transformtobacco.com This is RJ Reynolds – check out the About Us section. If you click on the yellow states they hand-hold your way to writing to your reps and newspapers and supporting whatever rhetoric they feed to you. It’s criminal! They pretend that there is a huge problem because there is no legal vaping age – a complete front for their ultimate goal: To get their tobacco money back, even if it means putting 1000s of Americans and Oklahomans who developed the vape market honestly and professionally out of business. These skunks have tripled the number of lobbyists in Oklahoma in the last week, trying to shove their Bill through. This is going to happen in States all over the US. Which one of YOUR state elected Senators or Representatives is being courted by Big Tobacco?