Gov. Signs Bill Enhancing Delaware’s Clean Indoor Air Act


WILMINGTON – Gov. Jack Markell today signed into law a bipartisan measure that broadens Delaware’s longstanding indoor smoking ban to include electronic devices such as e-cigarettes and vape pens.

Sponsored by Reps. Debra Heffernan and Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, House Bill 5 added the devices to Delaware’s 2002 Clean Indoor Air Act, which effectively banned smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor public places throughout the state. At the time, only California had a similar law in place, but today, 36 states have some form of a smoking ban for public places.

Under the new law, which will take effect in 90 days, electronic smoking devices are defined as “any product containing or delivering nicotine or any other similar substance intended for human consumption that can be used by a person to simulate smoking through inhalation of vapor or aerosol from the product.”

House Bill 5 was endorsed by the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Nemours, the state Division of Public Health and the Delaware Restaurant Association.

“I’m proud of the broad coalition we brought together to get this legislation passed and enacted,” said Rep. Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South, who is an environmental toxicologist. “They helped us educate my colleagues in Dover about the harmful substances, including nicotine, emitted from e-cigs; and my fellow legislators agreed that, just like cigarette smoke, Delawareans have a right not to be exposed to those chemicals secondhand. With this law in place, our state is once again leading the way on this important public health issue.”

In January, the California Department of Public Health declared e-cigarettes a public health threat, citing new data on the risks presented by e-cigarettes. Health departments in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee have issued warnings similar to California’s report.

“Delawareans should have the peace of mind to know they’re breathing clean air in public gathering spaces,” said Sen. Blevins, D-Elsmere. “Regulating these devices under Delaware’s groundbreaking Clean Indoor Air Act guarantees that.”

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes tripled from 2013 to 2014. E-cigarette use among high school students has increased from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 13.4 percent in 2014, while traditional cigarette use has fallen from 15.8 percent to 9.2 percent during the same period.

House Bill 5 was amended to exempt vape shops that meet certain criteria from the electronic smoking device prohibition. An exempt establishment must make 80 percent of its revenue through the sale of electronic smoking devices and substances, must be a freestanding shop opening to the outdoors, and must prohibit minors from entering.

Four states – Hawaii, North Dakota, Utah and New Jersey – currently ban smoking e-cigarettes indoors. More than a dozen other states have prohibited their use in public buildings such as schools, universities or corrections facilities, or on public transportation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Delaware’s Clean Indoor Air Act overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly in 2002 and was signed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. The Division of Public Health, charged with implementing the law and its associated regulations, maintains a hotline to collect public reports of noncompliance.

Last session, the Delaware General Assembly passed legislation that would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. At least 41 states prohibit minors from buying e-cigarettes.