Nicotine caps in e-cigarettes are at the center of the policy debate in Utah, once again.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health announced earlier this week that it intends to cap nicotine limits in closed-system electronic cigarettes from 5 percent to 3 percent. At that, the only reason why the debate is coming full circle once again is due to the Department of Health’s focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Two years ago, the Department of Health compromised with the private industry to limit caps at 5 percent. However, the latest move comes as means that’s reportedly intended to protect minors from addiction and the uptake of nicotine use at a young age.
Walter Plumb, an attorney and the chair of the tobacco control group Drug Safe Utah, said he supports the Department of Health’s proposal to lower nicotine levels to “protect minors.” Plumb told Salt Lake City CBS affiliate station KUTV that “I’m more concerned with our 650,000 kids, K-12 in Utah…Youth addiction has really taken off.”
Despite his and his organization’s intent, Plumb fails to understand the role of nicotine levels in helping smokers quit. Some tobacco harm reduction activists and experts speak a different tune than the tobacco control lobby.
“The proposed regulation would reduce the nicotine cap to 3 percent,” said Steven Greenhut, a resident senior fellow at the R Street Institute, in a blog post. “Currently, more than 80 percent of the closed-system market in Utah involves products with nicotine levels that exceed that amount. The new lower cap goes too far. Such strict regulation may encourage vape users to compensate for reduced nicotine levels by partaking in riskier behaviors.”
It is also illegal in Utah, and across the country, to sell vape cartridges to minors.
Utah actually charges individuals who violate that law with misdemeanors and other civil and petty criminal penalties. Plumb, though, still maintains that youth get their hands on vapes in epidemic proportions. He, however, cites no further evidence and appears to disregard the fact that millions of youth have turned away from vaping due to effective educational campaigns and the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.