MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Lawmakers are set to reignite conversations this week about whether vaping — using electronic cigarettes and other vapor smoking devices — should be included in Wisconsin’s smoking ban.
The ban that took effect in 2010 outlaws smoking in public indoor locations, including restaurants and bars. It doesn’t apply to vaping, giving venue owners the right to decide whether or not to permit e-cigarettes.
Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, seeks to include vaping in the ban. She said because the indoor smoking ban has been so successful, the bill seemed like a “common sense extension” of the 2009 ban.
“This bill doesn’t make anything illegal. It doesn’t make the ability to vape illegal. It just says don’t make it a team sport,” Kolste said.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, opposes the ban and plans his own bill this week to protect the use of e-cigarettes. Kleefisch said he does not believe lawmakers should be able to tell private business owners what patrons can do in their establishments.
“This new nanny state needs to stop interfering,” Kleefisch said. “Let the customers decide with their pocketbooks.”
Many Republicans agree, and Kolste said she won’t be surprised if her bill fizzles. If that happens, she said she hopes communities consider bans of their own.
North Dakota, New Jersey and Utah have banned vaping indoors in public spaces. Fifteen other states limit cigarettes in some areas, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wisconsin is among them. The Village of Ashwaubenon, just south of Green Bay; Greenfield, a suburb of Milwaukee; and Onalaska, a suburb of La Crosse, have already banned indoor vaping.
Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca said he was eager to see the conversation taken up in his chamber. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he is hesitant to expand the ban. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he said he saw no reason to expand the existing ban.
Dr. Michael Fiore, founder of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, said the health effects of vaping are still unknown.
But Fiore said he thinks not passing the bill would reverse progress made with the current smoking ban.
Tyler Newman, the 24-year-old manager of Infinite Vapor — an e-cigarette shop in Madison — said he and many other e-cigarette users would not like to see the ban expand to address vaping. After 10 years of smoking traditional cigarettes, Newman said he turned to e-cigarettes to wean himself off of tobacco.
“I quit cold turkey,” Newman said as he puffed out a fruity-scented vapor. “It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Newman carries a manila folder full of medical reports that he says suggest the benefits of vaping and is eager to hand them out to those seeking more information. He said he vapes in public, but first asks restaurant and bar patrons around him for permission. He said only one man has asked him not to vape.
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