SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that restricts the sale of electronic cigarettes as well as toughens penalties for people caught using or trying to obtain a false driver's license or other fake identification was approved unanimously in the House unanimously Friday

HB88 sponsored by Ronda Rudd Menlove, R-Garland, is among four bills targeting new tobacco products generally and is one of two that focus specifically on electronic cigarettes, most of which are available only via the Internet. The Senate approved the bill Thursday.

The plastic device is about the same size as the real thing, but instead of producing smoke after being lit, a battery warms a vial of liquid nicotine in the mouthpiece until it vaporizes as the user inhales.

Opponents of the bill told lawmakers they are kidding themselves if they think that e-cigarettes are marketed to children, adding they are no different from nicotine gum in intent. They are almost exclusively used by smokers as a stopgap between quitting and trying to quit inhaling the 4,000 toxic chemical compounds emitted by a burning cigarette compared to about 20 in the vapor of an e-cigarette.

That didn't stop proponent Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, from highlighting the potentially serious, even fatal, effects of tiny doses of nicotine exposure on toddlers. If a child manages to swallow straight nicotine and doesn't receive immediate medical attention, it will die, Ray said, noting that nicotine is still used widely as a pesticide.

The amount of nicotine in two or three regular filter cigarettes is enough to kill someone. But because nicotine is only partially consumed and is mixed with air going into the lungs over several minutes spread out over many years, risk of nicotine poisoning from cigarette smoke is very low, even for chain smokers, he said.

Following that logic, HB88 is really saying Utah would rather someone who is trying to quit smoking do so only by inhaling nicotine, the addictive drug in cigarettes, in its dirtiest, most unhealthy form, said Spike Babaian, president of the National Vapers Club, a consumer advocacy group for former smokers who have switched to electronic cigarettes.

The argument defies both reality and common sense, Babaian said. Passage of this bill takes away a life-saving choice for Utah smokers, and it leaves smokers who have already successfully switched to e-cigarettes in an impossible situation.

"It's inhumane, and it certainly isn't in the interest of public health," he said.

See the bill le.utah.gov/~2010/htmdoc/hbillhtm/HB0088.htm

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