Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette), the leader of the Senate, says he’ll try again to tax and regulate vaping.
His major tax bill passed the Senate but failed in the House in the regular session. The legislature also stripped the Tobacco Control Board of regulatory powers over vaping/e-cigarette retailers and prohibited cities and counties from regulating vaping (this last part of a bill passed in the name of UAMS cancer research.) The history indicates Hendren’s idea won’t be easy, not even with recent alarm over some illnesses believed related to vaping, or at least some of the substances now being ingested.
His news release:
Vaping would be restricted just as smoking cigarettes is restricted, it would be taxed like tobacco products and its marketing to minors would be prohibited under legislation drafted by Senator Jim Hendren of Gravette, the President Pro Tempore of the Arkansas Senate.
“The potential harm to our children’s health makes it imperative that we act with urgency,” Hendren said. “The Health Department reports that vaping among teenagers is at epidemic levels, and minors who use e-cigarettes are at risk for contracting severe lung disease.”
Hendren released a draft bill Monday that would prohibit vaping and the use of e-cigarettes in all the locations where tobacco smoking is prohibited under the Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act.
It would prohibit billboards that advertise e-cigarettes within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, and it would prohibit companies from handing out free samples to minors. The penalty would be a Class A misdemeanor and significantly, the revocation or suspension of the company’s license.
The bill would tax e-cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products, with the revenue going for school safety improvements such as purchasing security equipment and hiring security personnel. Also, it would be used to hire mental health counselors for students with mental health problems and addiction issues.
“I’ve circulated a draft bill among legislators, and I’m encouraged by the favorable response,” Hendren said. “Now, the question is when will the legislature have the opportunity to consider it.”
Hendren knows a guy who could make a special session happen. Uncle Asa, the governor of Arkansas.
Here’s the draft of the bill. Among other provisions, foster parents couldn’t vape in the presence of foster children. Police and sheriffs must provide a proportional number of non-smoking patrol cars. The tax must be equal to that levied on tobacco products, though it’s not readily clear how that would be calculated. Tax on a pack of cigarettes currently is $1.15.
The draft envisions rules adopted as soon as January 2020, which would require a special legislative session fairly quickly.