Jim Collar, Post-Crescent Media 4:40 p.m. CDT July 14, 2014
Four years after the ban on indoor smoking took effect in Wisconsin, health advocates have turned their attention to electronic cigarettes.
A poll conducted by the American Cancer Society in conjunction with the fourth anniversary of the ban found that 86 percent of respondents support the 2010 law.
The poll also focused on electronic cigarettes — or e-cigarettes — a relatively recent and increasingly popular smoking alternative that isn’t covered in the prohibition on smoking.
The poll found 62 percent of respondents favor prohibiting e-cigarettes in places where smoking is already banned.
Sara Sahli, Wisconsin government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the organization views e-cigarettes like any other tobacco product.
The popularity of e-cigarettes has grown faster than research, and the effects aren’t known for either the user or those exposed to secondhand vapor, health officials say.
“We’re not willing to say these are any safer than a cigarette at this point,” Sahli said. “It’s wait-and-see.”
E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco or produce smoke. They consist of a battery and atomizer that heats a liquid infused with nicotine. The inhaled vapor produces a sensation similar to smoking.
Users refer to the activity as “vaping,” as opposed to smoking.
Beth Kempen, a former smoker and co-owner of Appleton’s eVapor shops, said smokers recognize e-cigarettes as a healthier option.
“You feel better, you have your energy back — your taste,” she said. “It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t smokers.”
Laws, regulations floated
The statewide workplace smoking ban took effect July 5, 2010. The city of Appleton instituted its ban five years earlier.
A growing focus on e-cigarettes follows marketing efforts among several companies promoting them as a “smoke anywhere” option now that indoor bans have become the norm.
Justin Meeleus, owner of Appleton’s Kicks Vapor, said some users think e-cigarettes should be allowed anywhere. But he prefers the current environment. Some businesses allow users to puff, but he respects the rules of those who don’t.
His clientele hasn’t been motivated by having a means to sidestep the ban.