E-cigarettes and vaporizers will join cigarettes in being banned from most indoor public places in Rhode Island under legislation passed by the House today. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi, will now head to the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on companion legislation tomorrow.
The legislation (2017-H 5821A) adds the use of e-cigarettes, vaporizers, and similar products designed for electronic, vapor or aerosol delivery of nicotine, to the definition of “smoking” in the Public Health and Workplace Safety Act, which in 2005 banned smoking in in nearly all enclosed areas of places that are open to the public, including private businesses, restaurants, most bars, public restrooms, athletic fields, health care facilities, shopping malls, bingo facilities, common areas of apartment buildings with more than four units and many other places.
The legislation is meant, in part, to protect workers and the public from the effects of secondhand nicotine vapors, and to eliminate an avenue that is feeding addiction even as smoking rates are otherwise declining, said Representative Tanzi. In Rhode Island and nationwide, use of e-cigarettes by youth has surpassed use of conventional cigarettes.
“We’ve made such amazing progress at reducing smoking in recent years. And yet the use of electronic cigarettes, particularly among youth, has been rising. Excluding them from our smoking ban feeds the false narrative that e-cigarettes and similar products are somehow safe,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “In fact, most adult users of electronic cigarettes are ‘dual users,’ meaning they also smoke conventional cigarettes. Excluding electronic cigarettes from the ban allows them to use e-cigarettes all the time in places where cigarettes aren’t allowed, fueling addiction to both forms of nicotine. Ultimately, this loophole in our smoking ban benefits only Big Tobacco, in the form of an insidious means of hooking more smokers.”
E-cigarettes and similar products were not widely used in 2004 when Rhode Island’s smoking ban was enacted. The design of the devices vary widely, but are typically metal or plastic tubes that contain a cartridge filled with a liquid that is vaporized by a battery-powered heating element. The resulting aerosol is inhaled by users when they draw on the device, as they would a regular cigarette. The user then exhales a cloud of secondhand aerosol that includes toxins and other pollutants. While the levels of those toxins is generally lower than those of conventional cigarettes, they can contain heavy metals, ultrafine particulate, and cancer-causing agents like acrolein, as well as flavorings whose safety has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for food, not for inhalation. Furthermore, they are not an FDA-approved method for quitting smoking.
Representative Tanzi added that because many e-cigarettes pair scents with their sweet, sometimes fruity, flavors, the secondhand aerosols emitted can trigger breathing problems for asthma sufferers.
The World Health Organization recommends that electronic smoking devices not be used indoors, especially in smoke-free environments, to minimize the risk to bystanders of breathing emissions and to avoid undermining the enforcement of smoke-free laws.
The legislation has the support of the Department of Health, American Lung Association, the Rhode Island Academy of Family Physicians, the New England Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
“Rhode Island’s smoking ban has been a big public health victory in its decade-plus life, encouraging Rhode Islanders to quit or reduce smoking and improving both health and quality of life for smokers and nonsmokers alike. Ensuring that e-cigarettes and similar devices are included defends both indoor air quality and the integrity of the law, ensuring that we continue this progress,” said Representative Tanzi.
The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls), Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) and Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence). Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) is the sponsor of the Senate bill (2017-S 0446A).
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