A bill prohibiting local governments from placing encroaching regulations on vaping and alternative nicotine products without state authorities’ approval passed through the Montana House of Representatives.

House Bill (HB) 137, proposed by State Rep. Ron Marshall, R-Hamilton, was ratified by the Montana legislature’s lower house with a vast majority in favor of it.

Now, it advances to the State Senate.

Marshall, a former co-owner of a small chain of vape shops throughout Montana, secured its passage by 62 votes in favor to 37 votes against, with one representative absent to offer their vote.

“This bill is saying that the small guy, the little business owner … can sell a legal product licensed by the state of Montana,” Marshall said on the House floor last Friday, “Have a business license with the town, have a product that’s geared toward adults who are trying to get away from combustible tobacco.”

According to the Helena Independent Record, HB 137 will redefine state law prohibiting local governments from regulating alternative nicotine and vapor products like traditional tobacco products. Similar to legislation proposed and implemented in states across the US, such as Arizona, HB 137 would retroactively strip local governments’ regulations on tobacco products by redefining this alternative, tobacco-free product category as away from the state’s overall definition of “tobacco.”

By doing so, vapor products cannot be taxed or regulated like cigarettes. The legislation is expected to pass through Senate with ease, despite a promised organized opposition from state and local-based tobacco control organizations that wrongfully consider vaping products as more or as equally as harmful as cigarettes.

John Engen, the mayor of Missoula, has lobbied the House to postpone any further action on HB 137 until its better defined and equitable. A spokesperson for the city, Ginny Merriam, told the Independent Record that the city opposes the legislation because it strips it of the control of crucial public health regulations such as tobacco taxation.

Bill information from the Montana Legislature indicates that HB 137 has an expansive stint of process remaining before it becomes law. Vaping Post reported earlier that HB 137 comes as city and county government officials in and around Missoula wish to extend the current ban on flavored vapor products throughout specific areas in the county.

 

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