Iowa Attorney General Taking on E-Cigarettes


By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is taking aim at the new “e-cigarettes” with a call for state lawmakers to impose new restrictions and tobacco taxes on the liquid nicotine product.

Miller, at a Cedar Rapids news conference, urged lawmakers first to impose a ban on selling the product to minors under the age of 18.  E-cigarettes are typically battery operated devices that heat liquid nicotine into a vapor the user inhales.  Miller said the e-cigarettes are so new, Iowa law doesn’t adequately address the use.

In addition to banning sales to minors, Miller also wants lawmakers to tax the devices the same as tobacco, which currently means a per pack (20) tax of $1.36 in addition to state sales tax.  Currently, Iowa only applies state sales tax to the e-cigarettes.

“Whether there should be tax as much as a combustible cigarette, I’m not sure.  That’s something the legislature should look at.  We need more information about comparable prices,” Miller said.

Miller is also asking lawmakers to add the nicotine vapor product to the Iowa Smokefree Air Act.  That would prohibit the use indoors and in public places like restaurants and bars—the same as
tobacco products.  Four states, including Arkansas, New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah, have included the e-cigarette in their indoor smoking ban rules.

In the news conference, Miller said the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still contemplating federal regulations that would control the use and sale of e-cigarettes as well as advertising.

Harold Barnes, who owns a kiosk selling e-cigarettes at Lindale Mall, said he wouldn’t oppose a move to limit sales to minors.  It’s something he already does.

But he would object to a tax change to put e-cigarettes in the same category as tobacco products.

“It’s not a tobacco product, there’s no tobacco in it.  The idea of controlling tobacco was originally because there were carcinogens in it.  But there’s not any of that in these (e-cigarettes),” Barnes said.

State Senator Rob Hogg, (D-CR) attended Miller’s news conference at the Cedar Rapids Public Library.  Hogg said some lawmakers have started debating the regulation of e-cigarettes and he expected the call to limit sales to minors would find a favorable response.  However, Hogg said he wasn’t sure how soon lawmakers would address the issue of taxing the devices like tobacco products or including them in Smokefree Air Act rules.

Miller noted that last month the University of Iowa Faculty Council discussed proposing rules that would address e-cigarette use on campus.  Miller said it’s time such conversations begin elsewhere including the Iowa statehouse.

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