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State House sends e-cig bill to Senate

Delaware Public Media

A bill that would include electronic cigarettes or e-cigs in Delaware’s Clean Indoor Air Act is inching closer towards becoming law.

House lawmakers approved the measure Tuesday 29 to 11 with one legislator absent.

That means that e-cigs would not be allowed in any indoor public places like bars and restaurants just like traditional tobacco products.

Supporters say that vapor emitted from an e-cig contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals that can be breathed in by those around the user.

House Majority Whip John Viola (D-Newark) voted for the bill, but he and others say they’re skeptical about current studies outlining the dangers of second-hand vapor.

“Are there some chemicals that come out of there? I think there are. I think tests are still inconclusive as to how much. I believe it’s much lower levels [than cigarettes],” Viola said.

Some also worry that banning them from indoor public places might stigmatize users who might be using the product to wean themselves off of tobacco. Others commented on its effect on businesses specializing in vape accessories.

“What it does is it actually puts a hamper on the potential of this small business community to expand,” said Rep. Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley).

There were five amendments on the table that would’ve excluded specialty tobacco shops, taverns and taprooms from the bill, but they all failed.

Vape shop owners opposed the bill when it was originally filed in March, saying a lot of their business comes from customers trying the products within their stores.

To help alleviate those concerns, this amendment would permanently exempt most vape shops from the clean indoor air act as long as they don’t share common indoor space with another business.

They must also generate 80 percent of their business from selling e-cig products and ban anyone under 18 from the store.

Bill sponsor Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte) initially wasn’t willing to compromise, but delayed action on the bill for several weeks until an agreeable amendment was drafted.

“Though I would prefer a clean bill with no amendments, I understand these concerns and so I’m not going to stand in the way of this [amendment] if it gives the current and future vape stores and legislators, if it makes them feel better,” Heffernan said.

This bill was sent to the senate late in the session last year and wasn’t addressed.

Senate Pro Tem Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) had concerns about the bill initially, but has now signed on to the legislation, as have several other Democratic Party leaders.

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