SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) — A California legislative panel opted not to vote Wednesday during a heated hearing on a bill that would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products after lawmakers gutted its key provision.
The move prompted the measure’s Democratic author to renounce his own bill and urge its rejection.READ MORE: Possible Explosive Device Outside Oakland Courthouse Forces Evacuations, Street Closures
“I disassociate myself from it. It’s a very dangerous bill now,” state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, told lawmakers after they voted to remove the provision that defined e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
No committee member moved to take up the modified bill, which was then held in the committee.
A separate bill to raise California’s legal smoking age to 21 also was postponed when the author pulled it from the agenda saying he did not have enough votes for approval by the Committee on Governmental Organization.
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The bill by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-La Puente, would make California just the second state after Hawaii to bump the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
Hernandez pulled the bill from consideration just before the hearing, saying tobacco companies were successfully targeting members of the committee to oppose it.
Both bills face a July 17 deadline to pass the committee. It was unclear if they would be reintroduced by then. Lawmakers could also try to introduce the legislation in a special session on health care later this summer.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, signed legislation last month raising the smoking age in his state, joining New York City with the highest age restriction in the nation.READ MORE: UPDATE: State Attorney General Opens Civil Rights Investigation into Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office
Both California bills passed the state Senate last month.
The original e-cigarette bill by Leno calls for regulating electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, meaning use would be banned in California restaurants, hospitals and public transportation.
Vendors of the devices that convert liquid nicotine into inhalable vapor would also need to apply for a state license under the proposal.
Leno says flavored liquid nicotine solutions such as bubblegum and gummy bear are intended to hook a new generation of young smokers. Tobacco companies have sought to fend off rules governing the fast-selling devices, though at least 44 states ban their sale to minors.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is pushing federal regulation of e-cigarettes, possibly through the use of health warning labels and child-resistant packaging, but so far most states have not taken steps to regulate use by adults.
The outcome of Wednesday’s hearing marked a win for tobacco companies that have made large contributions to lawmakers, including more than half the members of the panel that met Wednesday, campaign finance records show.
“The big tobacco companies are the big political power as far as fighting this bill,” said Tim Gibbs, spokesman for the lobbying branch of the American Cancer Society.
David Sutton, a spokesman for tobacco company Altria, declined to discuss company donations to specific lawmakers.
A bill by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that sought to regulate e-cigarettes but stopped short of labeling them as a tobacco product failed in the Senate last month.
A 2013 bill that aimed to restrict public e-cigarette use was watered down to a ban on selling e-cigarettes in vending machines, but it did not win approval in the Legislature. California banned selling e-cigarettes to minors in 2010.MORE NEWS: 2022 KPIX Jefferson Awards Virtual Ceremony, Honoring 2021 Winners
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