New Iowa law language comes for e-cigs


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A new wave of sweeping regulations for a divisive but growing alternative trend to traditional cigarettes was put into Iowa law Tuesday, after several months of debates in the Iowa Legislature and across the nation.

But despite the new bind on the nicotine-packed cylinders, the University of Iowa and its law-enforcement officers are among the groups that have no say in refusing users from the electronic puffing on campus.

“If it’s an e-cigarette, there’s nothing we can do at this time,” said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police. “Right now, it’s the status quo.”

Another principal portion of the legislation prohibits e-cigarette purchases in vending machines and sampling of it within 500 feet of a school. The new law, which was one of more than 30 that took effect Tuesday, gives the state jurisdiction to regulate “electronic cigarettes” just as it regulates tobacco products.

Retail outlets in Iowa are now prohibited from selling alternative nicotine and vapor products such as vaporizer pens to individuals under age 18.

And although action against e-cigarettes by other U.S. colleges and universities, Green said UI police have chosen not to reach out to university faculty, students or the members of the community.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the e-cigarette is not covered under the university’s current smoke-free campus policy. Any potential changes to it will not occur until the Food and Drug Administration reaches out to the UI following a nationwide 75-day comment period due to end in mid-July, he said.

Then, UI administrators will share the FDA’s findings with the two student-government bodies to come to a unified conclusion.

The FDA issued clarification for e-cigarettes under existing federal law on April 24, which include banning sales to minors and requiring customers to show IDs, requiring health warnings on packages, and requiring manufacturers to register with the FDA and report product and ingredient lists.

The Iowa Smokefree Air Act, which went into effect on July 1, 2008, predated the ban. It called for the outlaw of the use of tobacco products in nearly all public areas.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, who has been a steadfast advocate for continued regulation of the electrionic devices, said the Tuesday legal passage was a good first step, but he said he would like to continue further legislative action on the matter in the 2015 legislative session.

“They’re not safe products,” Bolkcom said. “The fact of the matter is, that the tobacco industry is trying to hook a new generation of people with these highly addictive tobacco products.”

In order to align closer with how the federal government regulates the “Big Tobacco” companies, he said, e-cigarettes should be taxed and banned from the workplace.

Last week, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors took some of the first local actions when it voted to outlaw the use of alternative-tobacco products — which includes e-cigarettes — on all Johnson County property by a 3-2 vote. 

Still, the new limits don’t seem to be putting a damper on the sales of one new Iowa City e-cigarette retailer and lounge.

Ryan Hayslett, who co-owns the 3-month-old Black and Gold Vapors, 440 Kirkwood Ave., said he doesn’t foresee the law harming the continued growth in the broader tobacco market or his vast customer base.

“I don’t foresee it affecting business in any way,” he said. “I’ve got customers ranging from 18 to the upper 80s.”

Between April and June, the outlet witnessed a 150 percent increase in sales, earning approximately $13,000, he said.

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