Despite online harassment, local high school students filled the capitol with cheers Thursday morning and celebrated the success of a bill that would put heavier restrictions on e-cigarettes.
Davis High School senior Cade Hyde created a group known as SAEV, Students Against Electronic Vaping. The group’s anti e-cigarettes message has spread quickly since it first began in November.
“We started with my school, built up to our school district and now we’re statewide,” Hyde said. “We’re a statewide, student run coalition that’s supporting HB333.”
HB333 was supported with a 7-5 vote in The Revenue and Taxation Committee Thursday and will be considered by the Rules Committee in the near future.
Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sponsors HB333, which proposes a 86.5 percent tax on e-cigarettes and other vaping products. The revenue earned from the tax increase would go towards funding school athletic trainers and nurses in rural communities.
Gregory Conley, president of an association that actively opposes similar bills across the country, said, “When you increase the tax of vapor products, you are just keeping people smoking, and that should not be the end goal of the legislature. Their goal should be to increase public health.”
However, the students in the anti-vaping group are not as concerned with adults quitting smoking as there are in teenagers beginning to intake nicotine.
According to a study done by the Utah Health Department in August, e-cigarettes have overtaken cigarettes in popularity among Utah teens, and continue to steadily grow in popularity.
The students lobbying for HB333 said they have seen their friends become addicted to nicotine as a result of e-cigarettes. They said their friend’s newfound nicotine addiction has been a gateway for them to try harder drugs.
The anti-vaping students believe their cause is heroic. However, many voters throughout the state consider vaping products to be the public health heroes, and they are willing to threaten the members of the group in order to prevent the possible tax increase.
“Die. Please,” and “This makes me want to throat kick someone,” are among the mildest social media messages Hyde and his friends have received over the past several weeks. The students say most of the threats have been too crude to share.
The individuals posting the threats have been identified as Davis High School alumni, vape shop owners and other adults using vaping products.
In response to the harassment, Ray said, “Knock it off. You’re not helping your cause by acting like a kid yourself.”
Davis County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating the harassment, and a Kaysville Police Department
detective said the consequences for the harassers could be as serious as a class B misdemeanor.
Hyde and the rest of his group said they will continue to lobby against e-cigarette regardless of the harassment. They said they feel vaping products need to be more heavily regulated.
“I’m just going to keep pushing for this bill, and this coalition is going to keep going, and we’re going to get HB333 to pass,” Hyde said.