Vaping law 'fix' advances at the Statehouse

(AP file photo/Ben Margot)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP, WTHR) - A state Senate panel has advanced a bill to drastically overhaul the state's vaping industry law that granted a monopoly to one company and sparked an FBI probe last summer.

The measure written by State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, was approved Wednesday on an 8-1 vote, clearing the way for the bill to be taken up by the full Senate.

Vaping devices are used as an alternative to smoking. Users inhale vapor that's generated from a battery-powered device. The vapor contains nicotine and flavoring, produced by e-liquid often known as "juice."

Lawmakers passed a vaping law last year ostensibly to ensure consumer safety. It imposed strict safety standards for manufacturers of the nicotine-laced "e-liquid" used in vaping.

Current law requires vaping liquid manufacturers to use a qualified security company, but only one company in the entire state - Lafayette-based Mulhaupt's Inc. - met the standards to be a qualified security company, so the law effectively handed them total regulatory control over the state's vaping industry.

Mulhaupt's approved only six companies to produce, forcing dozens of other manufacturers to leave the state. Vendors say since the law went into effect on July 1, 2016, they've noticed some customers going to Illinois for their vaping liquid or just making their own.

The FBI launched a probe into the matter and a federal court has already struck down part of the law, calling it "a legislative grant of a monopoly to one favored in-state company in the security business."

Head's bill this year removes provisions from the law that created a monopoly for Mulhaupt's.

Vaping was a $100 million industry in Indiana in 2014, according to Evan McMahon with Hoosier Vapors.