ORANGE PARK – A move to ban e-cigarettes everywhere smoking is currently banned is raising concerns among the e-cigs community.
Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa) introduced House Bill 1143 last week to expand the reach of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act – originally passed in 1985 – to include nicotine dispensing devices that emit vapor instead of smoke. Chris Johnston, owner of Vapor Craft in Orange Park, wants state legislators to research the issue before taking a final vote.
“The exhaled vapor isn’t much different from outside air – there are no more toxins in it. There are byproducts of the nicotine, but far less than cigarettes,” he said. “Nonetheless, some people don’t want to be around it. I vape and I wouldn’t want someone blowing it near me and my family when I’m out at a restaurant, so I get it. However, I think it should be the restaurant owner’s choice.”
Meanwhile, Harrison’s colleague in the House, Rep. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) likes the proposed bill.
“I don’t know the studies, but I know that when I’m out with my family and see people smoking stuff, I know I’m inhaling it because I can smell it. I’ve read that these different devices are used to overcome smoking or as a cessation device and I think that’s great, but I think it’s dangerous because these vapors are unproven,” Cummings said.
Early research performed around the world has found vaping to be safer than smoking cigarettes because of the difference in carcinogens. In August 2015, Public Health England, the British counterpart to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, released a study concluding that electronic cigarettes are about 95 percent less-harmful than smoking tobacco.
Many find the early research too preliminary and remain concerned. The Washington State Department of Health states on its website that electronic cigarettes have not been fully-studied and the department expresses concern that nicotine and other byproducts may be inhaled second-hand.
It also points out that the decreased level of harm with e-cigs compared to tobacco and the corresponding level of acceptance could attract youth. Cummings said teens are his biggest concern and why he thinks vaping devices should be included in the indoor smoking ban.
“I’m extremely concerned that these devices are ending up in the hands of our youth. We’ve spent so much effort to decrease teenage smoking, but we may be losing ground on a different front now with these devices, Cummings said.
“The more we accept inhaling these unnatural chemicals as a culture, the more likely our children are to pick up the bad habits they see around them.”
Calls to state Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) and New Leaf owner Ben Hughlett did not return calls by deadline.
The bill is being debated in the Florida House Health Quality Subcommittee and may not make it to the full house, or could get there in an amended form. For now, the original version does not specify whether vapor lounges would be exempt or not. The bill simply adds language to existing law to “revise the definition of the term ‘smoking’ to include the use of nicotine dispensing devices.”
The state statute in question reads that “Smoking means inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying or possessing any lighted tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and any other lighted tobacco product….”
The proposed addition would have the statute go on to read “…or inhaling, exhaling, carrying or possessing a nicotine dispensing device as defined [in another section of the law].”
If approved, the bill would take effect July 1 and Johnston said he will abide by the law if it prohibits his customers from using their devices inside his lounge.
“The proposal is alarming – people don’t understand how this is helping the smoking community. Until the Federal Drug Administration considers it a cessation device, we can’t call it that, but we and every other vape shop in the country knows it works. I have 2,000 return customers who come here because it works, Johnston said.
“I don’t think putting it in the Clean Indoor Air Act is the right thing to do because it isn’t toxic, it’s not a pollutant and we don’t need to be protected from it.”