An official press release from the California State Governor’s office announced yesterday that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 400 that proposed electronic cigarette ban in the state of California.
The latest revision of SB 400 did not propose a complete ban on electronic cigarette use, but rather to,
… authorize action to halt the sale, distribution, or offering for sale of electronic cigarettes.
The famous actor and now Governor of CA had this to say in his official response letter to justify his veto:
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 400 without my signature.
While I support restricting access of electronic cigarettes to children under the age of 18, I cannot sign a measure that also declares them a federally regulated drug when the matter is currently being decided through pending litigation.
Items defined as “tobacco products” are legal for anyone over the age of 18. If adults want to purchase and consume these products with an understanding of the associated health risks, they should be able to do so unless and until federal law changes the legal status of these tobacco products.
For this reason, I am unable to sign this bill.
I’m sure this news comes as great relief to electronic cigarette smokers everywhere especially in the state of California!
It also seems that the scales may be tipping back in the favor of electronic cigarettes in spite of this proposed ban.
This may be a result of electronic cigarette supporters I have seen all over the internet organizing letter writing and telephoning campaigns through Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs (like this one).
Organizers really had to scramble on this California legislation because, as I documented in the call to action (CTA) in a previous post, there was only a little over a month to take action once it became clear what was going on.
I didn’t find out about it myself until 2 days before the legislation was to be signed. Here is a compressed timeline of what happened:
- 2/27/09: SB 400 was introduced as a “green vehicles bill”
- 6/24/09: SB 400 totally re-written as a change to existing tobacco legislation (huh?)
- 9/3/09: SB 400 totally amended to “ban” the sale of “electronic cigarettes” in the state
- 10/11/09: SB 400 to be signed into law unless vetoed
- 10/11/09: SB 400 vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger
Electronic Cigarette Ban Veto Response Letter Analysis
The SB 400 veto response letter is very short, but I wanted to do a little analysis and commentary on it as well as talk about some of the implications for those who are involved in the fight against electronic cigarettes bans.
In the first substantive paragraph of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s response he states his position supporting restrictions on the sale of the electronic cigarettes, but then passes the buck on the ban and basically says that his hands are tied because of litigation in federal court.
Gov. Schwarzenegger doesn’t specify, but I assume the litigation he is talking about is the case against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in which two electronic cigarette distributors based in the U.S. that sell the NJOY and Smoking Everywhere brands are suing the FDA for detaining their imports of electronic cigarettes.
The two distributors in this case claim that their electronic cigarettes are tobacco products and not drugs and are against any type of ban because the nicotine used in the cartridges is extracted from natural tobacco.
The FDA is currently considering this definition, but is probably just having a hard time figuring out how to make it up to Pfizer after the FDA undoubtedly accepted tons of cash from the Pfizer branch of “Big Pharma” to approve their Nicotrol™ nicotine inhaler.
Sounds impossible right? Not really because…
The difference between electronic cigarette distributors and Pfizer is that Pfizer is making health claims and selling their device as a smoking cessation product which requires FDA approval and electronic cigarette distributors are not.
Responsible electronic cigarette companies, make no such health claims. They don’t need to when the health benefits seem to be obvious to many people anyway. Also, they would love for you to keep smoking the electronic cigarette refill cartridges all day long and would rather not be troubled even trying to spell or pronounce the word, “cessation.”
So, it looks like Gov. Schwarzenegger has saved himself some time and trouble now and in the future by vetoing this bill. Wouldn’t it look bad if a state banned the sale of electronic cigarettes and then the FDA cleared them? Watch out Oregon! It seems like the governor is very busy with budget problems in CA anyway so when he saw an easy way out he took it.
In the second paragraph, the CA Governor seems to support the idea of electronic cigarettes being tobacco products while siding with the freedom of choice for his constituents and NOT electronic cigarette companies:
Items defined as “tobacco products” are legal for anyone over the age of 18. If adults want to purchase and consume these products with an understanding of the associated health risks, they should be able to do so …
One of my favorite definitions of freedom is that a person can do what they please so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. In this case the definition seems to fit.
Hopefully, the implications here are positive for those needing to halt an electronic cigarette ban at a state level. The most powerful ammunition one can employ is probably, “Hey, look at CA! They vetoed the bill because it’s tied up in a federal court that will probably result in federal legislation anyway.”
I have one final comment. I know Governor Schwarzenegger’s position in government has been controversial in some ways, but I am surprised at how smart this move and the speech in his letter seems to be.
I am not just saying this because I am anti-electronic cigarette ban either! And, yes I know he may not have written it and probably has a lot of aides doing his research.
It just really seems like the CA Governor’s office did their homework well enough to find out about the case against the FDA in Washington and thought about it long enough to realize its smart to see electronic cigarettes as simply another tobacco product and to NOT ban them. Oh, and I guess avoiding the potential for, “egg on the face,” once the FDA creates its own legislation was prudent motivation also.
Also, we never know how much the e-mails / letters we wrote and the phone calls we made influenced the decision, but I believe he and others in the Governor’s office listened based on the choice of words used in the response letter and their similarity to letters I saw that were sent to Gov. Schwarzenegger.
That being said, if you want to participate in the next Call to Action to possibly help prevent another electronic cigarette ban in the future then visit the visit the article I put together that explains the cause and then subscribe to the e-mail list and check the box listed subscribe to CTAs.