A resolution calling for a study of the theory that it could be useful to use non-traditional forms of tobacco to get people off cigarettes was killed Thursday after taking a long and circuitous route through the Legislature.

The so-called harms reduction theory suggests that the risk of death and disease among smokers could be reduced by encouraging them to switch to less risky forms of tobacco, said Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck.

He said the state has nothing to lose by studying the idea.

Sen. Nicole Poolman, R-Bismarck, a teacher at Century High School, disagreed.

“My students specifically asked me to speak on this today,” she said, to spread the message that all forms of tobacco should be discouraged.

The measure took an unusual path to its final resting place.

The House Human Services Committee got the first crack at it, and recommended by a vote of 12-1 that the measure be killed.

The full House turned the tables, though, and voted 48-46 in favor.

The Senate Human Services Committee also liked the idea, voting 3-2 in favor of its adoption.

But like the House, the Senate rebuffed its committee recommendation and voted 38-7 in opposition.

“Smoking is a scourge, nicotine is a scourge,” said Sen. John Andrist, R-Crosby.

“To keep searching for a way to make it safer is a futile effort.”

Sen. David O’Connell, D-Lansford, argued that it might be worth “one more tool in the toolbox” to help people who have trouble quitting smoking.

But Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said it is useless to study technical issues without an appropriation.

“If we don’t put in a substantial amount of money to hire consultants who have the expertise we would need to advise an interim committee,” she said, “then all we’re doing is offering up a bully pulpit for activists and people who have an agenda.”

Reach Steve Andrist at 701-223-8482 or stevea@crosbynd.com.

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