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Bill that would stop local governments from banning flavored vapes revived
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Bill that would stop local governments from banning flavored vapes revived

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A day after voting it down, lawmakers revived a bill to stop local governments from banning the sale of flavored vaping products in their communities.

In asking lawmakers to reconsider killing his bill, Sen. Jason Ellsworth, a Hamilton Republican, pointed to other more prevalent causes of deaths such as those from underage drinking and smoking cigarettes.

"Everybody is concerned about the health effects of it. We can now, I think, look at the totality and see that ... certainly should not be weighing on our minds," Ellsworth said.

The Senate voted 28-22 Wednesday to reconsider its actions in killing the Senate Bill 398 the day prior and then passed it on a second reading 27-23. It faces a final vote Thursday on a legislative deadline where it must advance to the House to stay alive.

Ellsworth has advocated for the bill, saying vaping products are legal and local governments have overstepped their limits in enacting bans on things like the sale of flavored vaping products.

"Local control is getting way out of control. ... We came in here and said 'Things have gone too far.' And that's one of the principles we're here to make sure that doesn't happen. You have a legal product, it's a legal product, that's all it is," Ellsworth said. The bill does allow for local governments to enact "reasonable" ordinances related to the sale of vaping products, but does not define reasonable.

In opposition to bringing the bill back, Sen. Russ Temple, R-Chester, said local control should not be overridden by the Legislature.

"The state does not have to get into the fact that local people have a choice, whether it's city or county. Leave it up to the locals," Temple said.

While Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, echoed Ellsworth in saying vaping products are legal for adult use, Sen. Chris Pope, D-Bozeman, countered that the issue is with flavored vaping products that can entice children.

The 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 58.3% of students had vaped, and nearly 19% had vaped on school property in the 30 days prior to the survey.

The idea of banning flavored vaping products has been a flashpoint in recent years.

At the state level, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services proposed to ban flavored vaping products in 2020 over concern that flavors targeted children. Ellsworth was a leader in a push from GOP lawmakers to oppose the ban, which the department eventually dropped.

Missoula had passed a ban on flavored vaping products, but delayed enforcement until May after it was sued.

One of the discussion points in the Legislature on Ellsworth's bill and a similar one that was previously voted down is the role of vaping in smoking cessation. Ellsworth said Wednesday vaping has helped him address a smoking addiction.

A 2020 Surgeon General’s report says "it is difficult to make generalizations about efficacy for cessation based on clinical trials involving a particular e-cigarette, and there is presently inadequate evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes, in general, increase smoking cessation."

It continues that the evidence is "suggestive but not sufficient to infer that the use of e-cigarettes containing nicotine is associated with increased smoking cessation compared with the use of e-cigarettes not containing nicotine, and the evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer that more frequent use of e-cigarettes is associated with increased smoking cessation compared with less frequent use of e-cigarettes."

Vaping products are not approved for use as smoking cessation measures by the FDA.

Proponents have also characterized vaping as a better alternative to smoking, health-wise.

According to the CDC, "e-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer harmful chemicals than the smoke from burned tobacco products."

But vaping products can contain cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep into the lungs. Montana reported a teen dying from vaping illness in 2019.

While not all vaping products contain nicotine, most do, according to the CDC.

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