Chairman and members of the

My name is Marc Hyden, and I am
the Director of State Government Affairs for the R Street Institute, which is a
nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to
engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited,
effective government in many areas. We have a keen focus on tobacco harm
reduction advocacy, and therefore LB
is of special interest to us.

It is currently illegal for
Nebraskans under the age of 18 to purchase
or use
combustible cigarettes or nicotine vapor products. However, LB 149
seeks to raise the minimum age to buy and/or use electronic cigarettes to 21
years, while still permitting 18-year-olds to purchase traditional cigarettes.
LB 149’s goal is well-intentioned, but this legislation will have negative

First, e-cigarettes are
unquestionably less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Public
Health England
has stated that they are at least 95 percent safer; the American
Cancer Society
has conceded that vaping is better than traditional
cigarettes; and the Office
of the Surgeon General
recognized that nicotine products exist on a continuum of risk with
e-cigarettes at the lower end, near traditional nicotine replacement therapies,
and combustible cigarettes at the highest end of the risk spectrum. Vaping
presents a reduced risk because it does not employ the traditional cigarette combustion
process that releases approximately 7,000 chemicals – some of which are highly

Second, e-cigarettes have quickly
become the number one quit
in the United States, allowing an untold number of Americans to
finally ditch cigarettes. Another study revealed that vaping products have
helped tens
of thousands
of British citizens quit smoking. The importance of this
cannot be overstated. Traditional tobacco usage is beyond dangerous. In fact,
around 2,500
Nebraskans die
prematurely each year because of tobacco.

By raising the vaping age to 21 and
keeping the smoking age at 18, Nebraska
is encouraging its young adults to participate in more hazardous activities.
While concerns that e-cigarettes could encourage smoking later in life are understandable,
they are unfounded. A recent study shows
that e-cigarette use is much higher among young current smokers than never

Nebraska should not be in the business of actively
promoting riskier behavior. Rather, the state should promote more prudent
activities. Thankfully, Nebraska has tools at its disposal to do this. It is
already illegal for youths under 18 to smoke traditional cigarettes and
e-cigarettes, and it is illegal to sell to minors. These prohibitions simply
must be enforced with increased vigor. Nebraska could go a few steps further,
however, and prohibit vaping on K-12 campuses. And if the Legislature wishes to
be even more proactive, Senators ought to consider raising the age to use any
tobacco products to 21 years old – a proposal that the R Street Institute

The bottom line is that incentives matter. The state
should not drive individuals toward smoking combustible cigarettes or impede
their ability to quit by making it more difficult to obtain less harmful

Thank you
for your time.

Marc Hyden

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