CA Bill Against E-Cigarettes Harmful to Consumer Health: SB 648 Would Restrict Use of Medical Marijuana Vaporizers by Prop 215

Also see: Blowing smoke about e-cigarettes
By Dale H. Gieringer
Sacramento Bee
Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014

UPDATE AUGUST 14: We're happy to report that the author has pulled SB648 over concerns about its impact on medical marijuana patients. Thanks to the many NORML members who wrote or called their representatives.

UPDATE 7/31/2013: The hearing on this bill is now scheduled for August 14.
Download a flyer on SB648 with key assembly district contact info

Cal NORML Release July 16, 2013

SACRAMENTO - The California legislature is considering a bill that would ban the use of e-cigarettes and similar smokeless vaporizers in areas where tobacco smoking is banned (SB 648 - Sen. Corbett).

California NORML is urging the Assembly to reject SB 648 on the grounds that vaporizers offer a proven, beneficial "harm reduction" substitute for medical marijuana users by reducing exposure to harmful smoke toxins while at the same time posing no second-hand smoke hazard to the public.

Though SB 648 was approved by the State Senate as a bill against tobacco e-cigarettes, it would adversely impact use of vaporizers by medical marijuana patents. Current state law (HSC 110945 b) defines e-cigarettes as "device[s] that can provide an inhalable dose of nicotine by delivering a vaporized solution.” This includes a wide range of vaporization devices now widely used for medical marijuana and other herbs, as well as tobacco and nicotine.

Vaporizers are designed to eliminate the respiratory hazards of smoking by eliminating the combustion that produces the smoke. Regular pipes and cigarettes produce carcinogenic tars, particulates and other smoke toxins that are a byproduct of burning leaves. Vaporizers don’t produce these toxins because they don’t burn anything, but rather evaporate an underlying solution or preparation of nicotine, cannabis, etc. at much lower temperatures.

Laboratory studies sponsored by California NORML have shown that vaporizers can effectively eliminate carcinogenic tars, benzene, naphthalene, toluene, and other respiratory toxins from inhaled marijuana.

A study by California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research found that vaporizers are an effective alternative delivery system to smoking for medical marijuana users (Dr. Donald Abrams, “Vaporization as a ‘Smokeless’ Cannabis Delivery System.”) Vaporizers have since become standard in medical cannabis research and are widely used by patients in places where smoking is banned.

SB 648 would place vaporizers under the same stringent restrictions as tobacco cigarettes, banning their use in public buildings, restaurants, workplaces, hotel lobbies, playgrounds, within 20 feet of exit doors, etc.

There is no evidence that vaporizers pose an appreciable second-hand smoking risk to the public. Users are known to vaporize in elevators and crowded rooms without any detectable odor or adverse notice. Bystanders are routinely exposed to worse emissions from kitchens, grills, garden plants, buses, chimneys, detergents, room deodorizers, gas stations, etc.

The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized against SB 648 ("Wait for Science on E-Cigarettes," July 10).

In a letter to the Assembly, California NORML warns that SB 648 would adversely impact public health by discouraging safer alternatives to smoking. “Medical cannabis users already find it difficult to find a legal place to medicate under current anti-smoking laws,” says California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, “Precluding the use of vaporizers will only make matters worse. The state should encourage, not discourage, the substitution of vaporizers and e-cigarettes for smoking."

Full text of SB 648