The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and the House Committee on Public Health will hold a joint hearing today to study the benefits of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices as aides in tobacco harm reduction. The committees, chaired by Sen. Brain Crain, R-Tulsa, and Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, worked closely together to schedule the hearing so key expert witnesses from around the country would be available to testify about the safety of these products.
E-Cigarette, or “vapor” advocates, along with public health officials, are scheduled to make presentations beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber.
“I believe it’s important for us to have an informed discussion on the subject of electronic cigarettes, especially in light of recent proposed regulations of these products,” Crain said. “I look forward to hearing expert testimony from both sides of the debate. I’m especially grateful that Secretary of Health and Human Services Terry Cline will be in testifying, but it’s very disappointing that our invitation to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust to testify was declined.”
Crain said the relationship between these products and successful smoking cessation was something that needed to be better understood as the legislature proceeds to craft regulations.
“The Legislature has been told that there is a growing consensus within the medical and scientific communities supporting the use of e-cigarettes and vaping to help smoking cessation efforts, but alarmingly, much of this information has not been recognized by public health officials,” Crain said.
Dr. Joel Nitzkin, a physician and a former Louisiana State Health Director, is scheduled to make a presentation as part of the hearing.
“Tobacco control policy has gone largely unchanged during the last 30 years. Significant data is pointing toward the promise of these products to help reduce the rate of smoking,” Nitzkin said. “It really becomes a question of ethics, whether public health officials across the county acknowledge this data in their efforts to achieve a meaningful reduction in smoking rates.”
According to information released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma ranked 39th in the nation in 2013 for adult smoking compared to 47th in 2012. The percentage of adult smokers decreased from 26.1 percent to 23.3 percent. During the same time period, the Oklahoma Tax Commission saw 14 million fewer cigarette tax stamps sold. Advocates have noted that while the state’s public policy remains unchanged, public use of vaping products and electronic cigarettes has risen exponentially.