By Associated Press, March 5, 2014
Madison — Even as the nation’s second-largest city is moving to ban electronic cigarettes where tobacco smoking is prohibited, Wisconsin lawmakers are considering doing just the opposite.
A Republican-sponsored bill to clarify that using e-cigarettes indoors is legal, despite a statewide ban on indoor smoking, drew opposition Wednesday from doctors, scientists and others who cited concerns over the product’s safety.
“If this bill passes, Wisconsin’s children with their young brains so sensitive to nicotine may be put at risk. Why would we do that?” said Dr. Michael Fiore, a University of Wisconsin professor who also founded the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.
The science behind whether the vapors from the devices are toxic to bystanders hasn’t caught up with the widespread use, and five states and dozens of cities — including the nation’s three largest — have moved to treat the newly popular e-cigarettes nearly the same as conventional cigarettes. The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces and public areas.
Sen. Glenn Grothman’s bill would do the opposite, explicitly allowing e-cigarette users to inhale the nicotine-laced vapors indoors despite the state’s 2009 law that prohibits indoor smoking.
“It’s sad that we have to introduce legislation to clarify that the smoking ban was not supposed to (affect) e-cigarettes,” said Grothman, a Republican from West Bend.
Advocates point to studies that show e-cigarette vapors may be many times less harmful than conventional cigarette smoke as a reason to prevent additional regulations.
Conservative radio host Vicki McKenna puffed on an e-cigarette before and after speaking to the senators. She said she smoked up to one or two packs of Camel Lights a day for 23 years before switching to e-cigarettes, she said, and stopping smoking.
“I found out that over the course of a few days I was able to transfer my dependency of cigarettes to the use of an e-cigarette with substantial benefits to my health,” McKenna said.