With little fanfare and no debate, the Arizona House of Representatives gave its preliminary approval to a measure backed by the vaping industry that would raise the age limit for tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21 years old while exempting the industry from future local regulations imposed by cities and counties.
The House on Wednesday also approved an amendment to Rep. John Allen’s proposal aimed at alleviating criticism of the bill.
While a state preemption clause in the original version of Senate Bill 1147 would have wiped out all local regulations on vapor and tobacco products, the amendment seeks to limit preemption only to restrictions by cities and towns on sales and marketing. An earlier version of the amendment allowed cities and counties to impose “reasonable” zoning restrictions, but Allen removed that word after critics questioned whether that would become a loophole for sellers of vapor products to escape local regulations.
Among other changes, Allen’s amendment also added a retroactivity provision allowing cities and counties to keep regulations on tobacco and vapor products that were in place by the end of April. For example, he said Tucson would get to keep a licensing fee it has for tobacco shops.
Though the House passed SB1147 on a voice vote, the next step may not be as easy. Allen acknowledged that he doesn’t yet have the votes to pass the bill on a roll call vote.
“I’m shy. But I’m getting there. And I think I will have enough votes to get it passed,” Allen said.
If the House approves Allen’s bill, the measure still must win approval in the Senate before it can make it to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.
Carter’s bill would classify vapor products and other nicotine products as tobacco, and would subject e-cigarettes to the same public use restrictions and prohibitions that the state imposes on tobacco. House Bill 2357 would leave the age limit for vapor and tobacco products at 18.
Public health advocates are largely backing Carter’s bill and opposing Allen’s over the state preemption clause. Allen says his bill is a better compromise and does more to curb vaping in schools.
Carter said she doesn’t know when HB2357 will go up for a vote in the House.
Carter’s bill faces a steep hurdle in the House. Because Arizona’s public smoking regulations were approved by the voters, they can only be altered under the auspices of the Voter Protection Act, which requires a three-fourths vote in both chambers of the legislature.