A key lawmaker on Indiana’s controversial vaping legislation said Thursday the law needs to be fixed.
“I give you my word that I’ll work with the leadership in the Senate, and we’re going to get that thing fixed,” Sen. Ron Alting told the Lafayette Journal & Courier this week. “This was supposed to be about safety in an unregulated industry, not about creating monopolies or anything.”
The legislation has come under fire from many in the vapor industry who were shut out by strict security regulations and a deadline to apply for a permit to produce e-liquid. Thursday was the last day the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission could approve a permit, according to the statute.
Only seven have been approved, primarily because of a provision in the law that effectively makes just one or two private security firms the gatekeepers for the industry. One of those firms is Lafayette-based Mulhaupt’s, which is in Alting’s district.
“I know how this looks,” said Alting, R-Lafayette. “I’m not sure what to say about the backlash. … That said, I don’t live in a make-believe world. I’m just here to tell you that’s not how this was supposed to work out.”
Alting said a last-minute approval of a seventh e-liquid company doesn’t change his opinion of the legislation’s impact on the free market.
“No matter what, we have to get this fixed quick,” he said.
Alting’s comments fall in line with similar remarks by John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for governor.
“Recent media reports about this apparent monopoly are more than a little disturbing,” Gregg reiterated Thursday. “While everyone supports oversight and reasonable safeguards on the industry, the legislature should re-evaluate this law and the system it created to ensure greater fairness, competition and transparency.”
Gov. Mike Pence’s office declined to comment, referring questions to the ATC.
Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in a statement that Senate leadership was “looking into the issue with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace. The law was intended to establish health and safety protections for the public, but if we find that it has inadvertently created unfair disruptions to the market, we will take swift action to address it in the next legislative session.”
The conversation about the law occurs on a day that was supposed to bring clarity to Indiana’s vapor industry, but instead brought more uncertainty.
Thursday’s deadline to receive a permit at one point meant the shutting out of dozens of producers and the sealing of the vapor industry in Indiana. Though much of that remains true, an unexpected permit approval, two court rulings and lawmakers’ remorse leave the legislation and the industry in limbo.
Arguments of a monopoly in the industry stem from 2015 legislation that established strict security stipulations for producers of the liquid used in vapor pens, an increasingly popular smoking alternative.
The law stipulates that in order to receive a permit, a producer of e-liquid must present a contract with a security firm that met strict requirements by July 1, 2015.
Under the original legislation, no producer in the state could meet those requirements. Amendments introduced this year loosened the criteria, but only slightly. Before Thursday, only Mulhaupt’s was found to be compliant.
Corona-based Cali Co-Packing, the last-minute addition to the short list of approved producers, filed an application with a second security firm, Lock-Up Inc., also out of California.
The approval hearing came just minutes after a federal judge ruled the Indiana law does not violate interstate commerce rules and hours before a second judge ruled in favor of a temporary restraining order that allows one producer to file an application past the deadline.
Florida-based Goodcat LLC will be able to submit an application while the merits of the lawsuit are under consideration. If the Indiana law is found to be pre-empted by new FDA regulations, as Goodcat claims, Indiana’s vapor industry could be reopened to those producers who were shut out.
Journal & Courier reporter Dave Bangert contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Sara Salinas at (317) 444-6157. Follow her on Twitter: @saracsalinas.
Call IndyStar reporter Tony Cook at (317) 444-6081. Follow him on Twitter: @indystartony.