News: Public Health

Experts Call for Indoor E-cig Smoking Ban

Tuesday, April 21, 2015  
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Experts call for indoor e-cig smoking ban
April 20, Wisconsin Health News

While little is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, experts are calling for the inclusion of devices under indoor smoking bans.

In general, studies indicate e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes because they lack tobacco, said Stephen Hecht, University of Minnesota professor of medicine and pathology. But he noted that e-cigs have formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and that more study is needed to see the devices' impact on health. 

At a University of Wisconsin-Madison Population Health Institute Evidence-Based Health Policy Project briefing, he said allowing e-cigarette use in indoor spaces could "turn back the clock."

"I am a veteran of the secondhand smoke wars," Hecht said. "It took us years to get where we are today. If you're going to have people vaping inside, that's going to change social norms backwards."

Hecht said smoking e-cigarettes indoors could increase cues for smoking, which have been reduced because of indoor smoking bans. Dorothy Katsukami, a University of Minnesota psychiatry professor, agreed. She noted that the devices have unknown acute or long-term effects. 

"The real concern is normalizing smoking-like behaviors," Katsukami said. "For a number of years the comprehensive smoking bans have been very effective because it's denormalized smoking, and so the real concern is that if you allow an individual to smoke in these public places, it gives a certain message to youth as well as current smokers." 

Karmen Hanson, health program manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that as of April 8, three states have banned smoking e-cigarettes indoor. Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, has introduced legislation to add e-cigarettes to the state's indoor smoking ban. 

But Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, has told the Associated Press he plans to introduce a bill prohibiting local governments from banning indoor vaping because he says that decision should be left to businesses to decide. 

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