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Politics & Government

Indoor ban on e-cigs imminent

Delaware Public Media

The legislative end is in sight for a bill banning electronic cigarettes from indoor public places after state senators passed the bill 13-7 Thursday.

The lone exception is for stores that make most of their money from selling vape products and who don’t share indoor space with another business.

Two amendments that were defeated in the House followed the legislation to the Senate, but were also defeated or stricken there.

Those included carving exceptions into the law for specialty tobacco and cigar shops, as well as for taverns and taprooms.

Debate centered on burgeoning research showing emissions from e-cigs contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals harmful to health.

“There was one study that demonstrated that people passively exposed to e-cigarette emissions absorb comparable amounts of nicotine as those who were exposed to passive smoke,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, head of the state public health department.

Rattay notes that women exposed to second-hand vapor could pass those same health risks along to their babies.

Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna) says he doesn’t see breathing in further trace elements affecting people’s health.

“There’s minute traces, of course, of nicotine and really formaldehyde and, of course, other toxic substances present in a lot the food we eat and the air we drink," said Ennis. 

"I’m just hoping that next year we don’t come back with another bill to outlaw a certain food that we eat just because there’s nicotine traces.”

Other detractors, like Joel Nitzkin, a doctor and lobbyist for the libertarian R Street Institute found those short-term studies questionable.

Nitzkin also says the ban could have unintended consequences.

“What it will do is discourage smokers who would otherwise switch to these much lower-risk products from switching,” he said.

Including the devices under Delaware’s Clean Indoor Air Act also leaves certain exceptions for private clubs, fraternal organizations and volunteer fire halls that were included when the law passed in 2002.

Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover South) says that provision doesn’t make sense to him.

“We are going to ban a product that helps people stop smoking and we’re doing this for public health, yet our heroic firemen don’t deserve that protection?”

Pro Tem Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) noted that those organizations are exempted because they're private.

This is the second year supporters have pushed for this legislation. Senators failed to take up the issue last year.

Gov. Jack Markell (D) has said he will sign it into law.

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