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Utah – Stop Arbitrary Limits on Nicotine Content!

current status

Proposed
Rule

Public
Hearing and Comment

Final Rule
and
effective date

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is proposing an amendment to it’s Electronic Cigarette Substance Standards that would limit the amount of nicotine allowed in certain vapor products. Specifically, the amendment would prohibit the sale of closed-system products containing more than 3% (or 36mg/mL) of nicotine.

  • A public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for
    Wednesday, July 7, 2021
    2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
    Via ZOOM or Phone
Opinions about nicotine content are strong on all sides of the debate around vaping and other smoke-free nicotine products, but the conversation is largely driven by emotion and sloganeering by anti-tobacco activists. While those who support establishing a limit on nicotine content argue that it is necessary to protect young people from addiction, in practice, the campaign is more about making safer nicotine less appealing for all ages. A foundational belief that informs this effort is the idea that nicotine should only be delivered in concentrations that relieve the symptoms of withdrawal from smoking, but not enough to create a pleasurable sensation. The proposed UDOH rule and the campaign supporting it are promoting the narrative that safer alternatives to smoking are only acceptable as therapeutic products used as part of a total nicotine cessation strategy.

People who use nicotine do so because it feels good. Be it relief from stress, depression, or anxiety, or simply marking or passing time, people use nicotine for their own reasons and perceive a benefit. Across the spectrum of products, nicotine delivery varies due to route of administration (e.g. oral mucosa, lungs, transdermal, etc.). In some cases, like vaping, for example, people can moderate (or titrate) nicotine delivery by changing power settings or simply consuming more or less nicotine-containing material. Perhaps one of the best examples of low-nicotine delivery causing harm is the case of “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes, which led to people inhaling more smoke deeper into their lungs in order to achieve a nicotine yield similar to smoking regular cigarettes.

A pillar of harm reduction strategies is the concept of meeting people where they are. In the case of smoking, people are accustomed to a certain level of nicotine delivery. In order to provide low-risk alternatives that appeal to people who smoke, it makes sense that alternatives to smoking deliver a similar, satisfying dose of nicotine. It is also important that such an alternative mimics the form factor and rituals of the products it’s replacing. When it comes to vaping specifically, this means smaller devices with shorter battery life that provides less energy to a heating element, compared to more advanced devices. Compensating for these limitations requires a higher concentration of nicotine to produce a similar nicotine yield.

For some people, a 3% cap on nicotine concentration may be enough to convince them that they can move away from smoking, while others will accept such products as a proof of concept, but still search for more satisfying products–even if that means continuing to smoke. Some supporters of a nicotine cap argue that people new to vaping will migrate to specialty shops in search of more powerful devices that can deliver a familiar dose from e-liquids with lower concentrations of nicotine. Moreover, studies show that the specialized services these shops offer, including expert instruction and peer-to-peer advice, helps people transition completely away from combustion compared to people shopping retail environments like convenience stores and gas stations.

While CASAA supports claims and research showing that people who shop at specialty vape shops are more likely to switch completely to a smoke-free product, at the same time it remains vital to meet people where they are. In practice, this means ensuring that people who smoke are aware of and have access to safer, enjoyable nicotine products in the same places where they buy cigarettes. CASAA is opposed to establishing a nicotine cap on any e-liquids used in either closed- or open-system products.

  • Lower-power vapor products require higher concentrations of nicotine in order to appeal to people who smoke and inspire them to switch completely away from combustion.
  • Mandating lower nicotine levels in smoke-free alternatives actually protects the appeal of the most harmful products that rely on combustion. A similar sales ban on cigarettes that actually deliver more nicotine is not being proposed.
  • The so-called “youth vaping epidemic” misrepresents prevalence of use among young people by focusing on the most eye-popping statistics and preys on the public’s misunderstanding of substance use.
  • A low-nicotine mandate may pressure people to travel outside of the state to purchase regular strength closed-system products (i) not supporting local businesses, and (ii) imposing a hidden tax resulting from extra travel expenses. This rule may also pressure people to purchase and consume more e-liquid which is a similar hidden tax as it forces people to spend more money.

Agenda - 07/07/21

Proposed Amendment

Take Action Now!

Members of the public are encouraged to submit comments and participate in the public hearing.

  • Request to speak at the hearing
    Please contact Tobacco Prevention and Control Program Policy Analyst Christy Cushing for questions or to sign up to provide public comment during the virtual public hearing at 801-538-6260 or ccushing@utah.gov or email tobaccorulescomments@utah.gov.
  • Due to COVID-19, this public hearing will only be held virtually via this Zoom link:
    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82302766468?pwd=S3Q2a0k0M3BPNEE0eFBwd2JwZ3RsQT09
    Passcode: r384-July7

–OR–

  • Join by phone:
  • US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 346 248 7799
  • Webinar ID: 823 0276 6468
  • Passcode: 8431108770
 
Please include your experience with switching to vaping. If products with a nicotine content above 36mg/mL helped you quit smoking, make sure to note that in your comment. See the dropdown box above or to the side for additional points you may want to include in your comments.
 
Public comments on the proposed rule amendment to R384-415, filing #53559, will be accepted until 7/15/2021 and can be sent to tobaccorulescomments@utah.gov. Please contact TPCP Policy Analyst Christy Cushing for questions at 801-538-6260 or ccushing@utah.gov.