Rep. Debra Kolste proposes indoor ban on e-cigarettes

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Nick Crow
January 9, 2015

JANESVILLE — Rep. Debra Kolste introduced legislation Thursday that would add e-cigarettes to Wisconsin's indoor smoking ban.

"There's no research to tell us whether it's safe or not," Kolste said. "There is no research that says these e-cigs are safe. It would be wrong to take a step back."

Aron Riley, who works at JVL Vapors, 2919 N. Lexington Drive in Janesville, said e-cigarettes are a long-term solution for people who want to quit smoking cigarettes.

"It's being used as an alternative," Riley said. "I'm hoping it will get people away from smoking."

Riley and owner Jason Davis agree that a ban on e-cigarettes in public places wouldn't be a bad thing.

Davis, however, said he doesn't think they should be banned in bars.

"We see ages all over the board," Riley said. "There are people who are 18 all the way to 70. A lot of them are people trying to get off the smoking and cigarettes."

E-cigarettes contain a flavored liquid that is heated by a coil and turned into vapor.

The liquid ingredients include nicotine, flavoring, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.

Kolste, a Democrat, represents the 44th Assembly District, which includes Janesville.

She said the regulation of e-cigarettes is in limbo and should be addressed in state statutes one way or the other.

"There's nothing on them," Kolste said. "This would take it out of public places. As of right now, e-cigs should be the same as tobacco, because we don't know, only that there's chemicals in the vapor."

Kolste, who is a minority member of the Assembly, said she hopes there will at least be a hearing on the issue.

Last spring, a bill was introduced to allow e-cigarettes indoors, despite the state's 2009 indoor smoking ban.

At the time, advocates of the bill said e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes and wean smokers off cigarettes. Opponents said the vapors can contain heavy metals and other toxins.

No action was taken on the bill.

JVL Vapors is one of two stores in Janesville that exclusively sells e-cigarettes. The other is Wisco Vapors at 13 N. Academy St.

E-cigarette devices cost $25 to $40. The flavored liquids for the device, called "juice," costs $7 to $10. Each bottle contains varying levels of nicotine.

"I don't see a potential ban being a deterrent," Riley said. "A lot of people that come in here are committed to get off smoking. It's not that people want a cigarette, they want what's in it."

Debbie Fischer, director of Youth2Youth of Rock County and the Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, said her organization doesn't take stances on political initiatives but supports anything that promotes clean air for people.

"The smoke-free policy has been wonderful because it's protected smokers and workers," Fischer said. "Secondhand smoke from anything is something we're always concerned about."

Fischer said clean air indoors is a priority for her organization.

According to the press release from Kolste announcing the legislation, e-cigarettes contain harmful toxins found in traditional cigarettes, including higher levels of nickel, lead and zinc.

The World Health Organization recommends that e-cigarettes not be used indoors to minimize the risk of exposure to secondhand e-cigarette vapor, which can contain toxins such as chromium, according to the release.

"There is no research to tell us whether it's safe or not," Kolste said. "These e-cigarettes have a lot of possibilities because you don't know what they are putting into them. It does concern me."

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