A state lawmaker is hoping to explicitly include e-cigarettes and vaping in the state’s ban on smoking in public places.
In 2010, Wisconsin enacted the Smoke Free Air Law that restricts smoking in public indoor locations. State Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, is proposing a measure that seeks to include electronic cigarettes and other vapor smoking devices in the ban.
Noting the growth of e-cigarettes in recent years, Kolste said she believes they should be included in the law since they contain carcinogens.
“My main motivation is because it is good public health policy,” Kolste said. “I don’t think people should be exposed to [the toxins].”
Kolste’s bill is the exact opposite of a proposal in the last legislative session that sought to exclude e-cigarettes from the ban. That bill’s author, former state Sen. Glenn Grothman, is now in Congress, but state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, told the Associated Press he would introduce a similar bill this session.
Because of their novelty, there have not been extensive studies on e-cigarettes, so health experts are unsure what their health effects are, said Dona Wininsky, director of public policy and communications for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.
Wininsky said the Smoke Free Air Law has been incredibly successful and that she does not believe it needs to be altered.
“We just don’t believe we should be opening up the smoke-free air law for any reason, at this point in time,” she said. “Whether by well-intended legislators who want to improve the law or by other legislators who want to put provisions in it that could potentially weaken it.”
Lawmakers should be more focused on regulating other tobacco products such as smokeless tobacco and little cigars, Wininsky said, referring to e-cigarettes as a small piece in the puzzle. While regular cigarette smoking rates have gone down, there has been an increase in other tobacco products, she said.
Toby Campbell, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin and lung cancer expert, said although the health effects are not yet fully known, e-cigarettes should be regulated.
Campbell said many e-cigarettes target youth by coming in alluring flavors, such as vanilla and cherry, and that youth are more susceptible to peer pressure and these flavors.
“Even though people know [cigarettes are] not good for them and they don’t really want to be doing it, nicotine in particular is a powerfully addictive substance and in that way it’s different than even alcohol or other illicit drugs,” Campbell said. “It is more addictive, and by making these things open, I think we tempt some serious problems.”
Kolste said even if the bill does not pass, she hopes individual communities have discussions on e-cigarettes and consider bans of their own.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.