Electronic cigarettes could be banned from indoor public places in Delaware if a bipartisan group of state lawmakers gather enough support.
Returning to Dover after a two week break for Easter, state lawmakers proposed House Bill 309, which would add e-cigarettes to the state’s indoor smoking ban.
“Although e-cigarettes don’t give off the same thick cloud of smoke as regular tobacco products, the jury is still out on whether these devices are safer or if there are any adverse effects from using them in public places,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South.
Currently, three states have a ban on smoking e-cigarettes indoors: New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states have banned the use of e-cigarettes on public transportation or in public buildings like schools. About a dozen states are considering similar action in their legislatures.
“We should not take people’s health for granted, especially as more data starts to mount about the potential harm e-cigarettes could cause people,” Heffernan said, recalling that the effects of secondhand smoke weren’t recognized for years.
Following California, Delaware was only the second state in the nation to pass such a ban. Since then, 36 states have approved some form of indoor smoking ban.
When Delaware approved the Clean Indoor Air Act in 2002, which banned cigarette smoking in nearly every indoor public place in the state, there was opposition from some restaurant and bar owners who thought that the ban would be bad for business.
Carrie Leishman of the Delaware Restaurant Association observed that the initial opposition to the ban has dwindled.
“Delaware’s restaurant and bar community, its employees and patrons have grown accustomed to the law,” Leishman wrote in a letter that supported the addition of e-cigarettes to the ban.
With the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, some Delaware restaurant operators are confused about how to handle the use of the devices in their restaurants.
“We have received numerous calls from our member restaurants, many of which are confused about the handling of e-cigarette use in their establishments,” Leishman wrote to members of the state House. “Potential conflicts can arise between the smoking consumer, nearby customers and staff without clear rules set forth under the current law.”
The state House has already passed a bill that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. That bill, which received unanimous support in the House, is awaiting action in the Senate.