Vaping file photo AP

A man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago in this file photo from September 2018. 

Tuesday’s news that the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare had confirmed its first two cases of vaping associated respiratory illness in the state only added to the national discussion over what, if anything, should be done about e-cigarettes, writes Melissa Davlin of Idaho Reports, but Davlin found hard evidence the debate on vaping has already started in Idaho.

In the Secretary of State’s lobbyist database, Idaho Reports found four vaping-related companies that employ a total of seven lobbyists, Davlin writes, with thousands in lobbying spending already reported.

Those companies include Swisher, a sister company to electronic cigarette company E-Alternative Solutions; vaping industry leader Juul; Altria, which owns multiple tobacco companies like Phillip Morris and has a 35 percent stake in Juul; and Reynolds American Incorporated, which owns RJ Reynolds Vapor.

Altria, by far, was the biggest spender. In 2019, Sacramento-based Altria lobbyist Amanda Klump reported spending a total of $16,926,01 in Idaho, making her the sixth on the list of highest-spending lobbyists this year, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Those expenses included spending $500 for inaugural ball tickets for House Majority Leader Mike Moyle and his wife, Idaho State Tax Commissioner Janet Moyle, in January, Davlin reports.

Altria has also donated to a number of Idaho legislative candidates, giving about $23,000 in the 2018 election cycle alone.

During the 2019 legislative session, Klump reported spending related to lobbying on three specific bills: the two voter initiative bills that were ultimately vetoed by Gov. Brad Little, and a bill that would have added a 15 percent tax to electronic cigarettes. The latter bill, sponsored by Reps. John Gannon and Greg Chaney, stalled in the House Revenue & Taxation Committee in late March.

Chaney told Idaho Reports on Wednesday that Gannon had been the driving force on the bill. As for whether it will come back in the 2020 session? “In light of recent events, it would be even more relevant,” Chaney said.

You can read Davlin's full post here at her Idaho Reports blog.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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