(MADISON) – Rep. Debra Kolste (D-Janesville) is circulating legislation that would add vapor devices (being called “Electronic Smoking Devices (ESDs)” by the sponsor) to Wisconsin’s indoor smoking ban, Kolste, a Democrat, represents the 44th Assembly District, which mainly consists of the city of Janesville.
Sponsors are claiming that vapor products contain harmful levels of “toxins” found in traditional cigarettes, including higher levels of nickel and other toxic chemicals like lead and zinc. They claim research shows that these toxins are released into the air as secondhand e-cigarette “smoke,” although the levels at which they are found are highly unlikely to pose any health risks to the user, let alone to bystanders.
“Allowing the use of ESDs in establishments that fall under the state’s smoke-free laws undermines the very purpose of the smoking ban,” said Kolste. “The legislature passed the smoking ban to protect public safety, and allowing people to use e-cigarettes in smoke-free venues directly contradicts Wisconsin’s efforts to create healthier indoor environments for workers and patrons alike.”
The World Health Organization recommends that ESDs not be used indoors in order to minimize the risk of exposure to second-hand e-cigarette smoke. However, dozens of health experts have called the WHO to task for spreading disinformation about vapor products.
According to the press release, an analysis by the US Food and Drug Administration found that nearly one-third of adverse-event reports for ESDs are related to secondhand exposure. Although there are an estimated 2.5 million vapor product consumers in the U.S., there were only 33 complaints by non-users nationwide, which were not verified by the agency.
“It only makes sense to close this e-cigarette loophole and honor the intent behind Wisconsin’s indoor smoking ban,” Kolste said. “It’s time we extinguish the use of e-cigarettes in indoor establishments.”
“Actually, the purpose of state’s smoke-free laws is to protect the public specifically from smoke, not vapor. The ‘intent’ of the law was to protect people from actual harm. There is no such evidence that e-cigarette vapor is a hazard to the users, let alone to bystanders,” said Kristin Noll-Marsh, of the Wisconsin Smoke-free Alternatives Coalition (WSAC). WSAC is a loosely-formed, grassroots organization that works to assure the availability and affordability of smoke-free products, such as e-cigarettes, for adult smokers.
“Lawmakers are exaggerating the levels of chemicals that have been detected in some of the vapor products,” Noll-Marsh said. “Simply detecting a chemical does not mean that product is automatically harmful. If you look closely enough, you can find chemicals that are toxic at higher levels in everyday products we consider safe – like flouride and sodium. You have to prove that there is even something to be protected from before you try to ban it’s use in public. That has not been established at all.”
“This is an unscientific witch hunt, unapologetically lobbied by special interest groups that receive funding from companies that make competing products. By the time these groups are proven to be wrong -at least to their satisfaction – it will be too late. Millions of smokers across the country will be dead, because they believed this misinformation and just kept smoking.”
Noll-Marsh testified in Madison in early 2014 in support of Senator Glenn Grothman’s bill to exclude vapor products from the state’s smoking ban. She says she was told by several lawmakers at the time that there was no need for such a law, because no one was trying to prohibit public use.
“I told them [the laws] were coming and now they have. It makes no sense to ban the public use of products that contain less harmful chemicals than the typical indoor air at a restaurant and are reducing the smoke exposure to smokers and their families. More smokers using vapor products indoors means less smokers stand outside on the sidewalk. It’s also a great incentive to get smokers to switch,” Noll-Marsh noted.
WSAC plans to unite consumers and their families from all over the state to fight the ban, she says.
For more information,contact:
Wisconsin Smoke-free Alternatives Coalition