Mar 3, 2014 at 10:35 am
ST. CLOUD (KNSI) - Both sides in a debate over electronic cigarettes say scientific evidence is still out about the health safety of the devices, but bills to regulate them could advance anyway in the Minnesota Legislature.
There are a pair of bills in committee right now in the MN House. One of these, HF 1931, focuses on regulating the sale and access of sales of e-cigs to minors.
Democratic Representative Laurie Halvorson says there is plenty of concern about what's in the liquid that produces e-cigarette vapors. She also says regulations are necessary to keep them away from children.
Matt Black, president of Minnesota Vapers Advocacy, represents a handful of St. Cloud-area businesses at the policy-making level. He tells KNSI, while his agency supports legislation to keep electronic cigarettes out of the hands of minors, Black says the bill included a public use ban on the devices, which he calls counterproductive.
"The concept behind the public use ban is to prevent the 'renormalization of smoking," Black explains. "To put it in perspective, by sending people who [use electronic cigarettes] outside to vape with the smokers, it's like telling a recovering alcoholic to a bar to quit drinking. It doesn't make any logical sense."
Black says that public use ban has since been removed from the bill during a committee hearing last week, and he expects it to pass handily.
The other bill up for hearing HF 1974, a bill that essentially treats e-cigs and vapor products exactly like cigarettes. Black says there hasn't been enough research performed to deem e-cigs as a health risk, and calls the bill a "knee-jerk reaction" made without scientific proof.
"There's no combustible tobacco in the product," Black says. "There's no smoke being emitted. There's no scientific data to prove there are any harmful chemicals being released. So why are they being treated like a product we know kills people?"
About 200 shops have applied for licenses to sell battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution. Users inhale a vapor but they don't emit the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.
Industry officials argue they're a lower health risk than standard cigarettes.
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