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House panel forwards ban on hookah, e-cigarettes

Published: Thursday, Feb. 9 2012 5:41 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Hookah pipes and e-cigarettes would be banned in public places under legislation a Utah House committee approved Thursday.

HB245 sponsored by Rep. Bradley Last, R-Hurricane, proposed to amend the state's Indoor Clean Air Act to define the use of electronic cigarettes and hookah pipes as smoking, therefore prohibiting their use in public places.

"I understand that there are strong feelings about this," Last told the House Government Operations Committee. "I think this is a very good place to start regulating, making sure we protect the public even though there are some things we don’t know necessarily."

Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, voted against the bill, saying he lacked data on the effects of e-cigarettes and hookah pipes and how the devices fit into the indoor clean air act.

E-cigarette users say the product is not the same as tobacco cigarettes.

"I don’t want to bash anybody, but I keep hearing the reference to smoke. E-cigarettes are not smoke. It is water vapor," said Angela Ross, who switched to e-cigarettes after 20 years of tobacco smoking.

Teresa Garrett, of the Utah Department of Health, said regulations would clear up confusion about e-cigarettes.

"Businesses don't know if they can exclude them or not," she said. "This bill helps clarify that."

The bill would allow the use of hookah pipes in public places designated for that purpose if the establishment meets certain criteria.

It world require hookah bars to have existed as of Jan. 1, 2012, sell the products used in the pipes, admit only those 21 or older and have at least 10 percent of its sales related to hookah.

Nate Porter, whose family owns the Hookah Bar and Grill, said he can live with some provisions in the bill. But he said the five-year exemption on certain restrictions on heated tobacco leaves his business in limbo.

"Really, I have this noose around my neck. I might walk away from it or I might get hung by it," he said.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com Twitter: dennisromboy

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