House Passes Bill Extending Clean Indoor Air Act to E-Cigarettes


DOVER – The House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday that would expand Delaware’s second-in-the-nation law prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places to include electronic cigarettes.

Sponsored by Reps. Debra Heffernan and Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, House Bill 5 would add electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or digital cigarettes, 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.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that heats a cartridge of liquid, producing a mist that can be inhaled by the user. The emissions contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Rep. Heffernan noted that while some tout e-cigarettes as safer than regular cigarettes and claim what is exhaled is simply water vapor, recently published research has shown this to not be true. The devices are not yet regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Although e-cigarettes don’t give off the same thick cloud of smoke as regular tobacco products, it is becoming increasingly clear that these devices do not just give off harmless water vapor. They contain carcinogens and are emitting nicotine, chromium and nickel,” said Rep. Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South, who is an environmental toxicologist. “Delawareans deserve to breathe clean air and not be subjected to these secondhand emissions when they are going to indoor public places. This bill puts Delaware ahead of the curve in addressing this public health concern before it becomes a serious issue.”

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.

The bipartisan House Bill 5 would add a definition of “electronic cigarette” to existing law that would cover all types of e-cigarettes and other vaporization devices. The bill would also redefine “smoking” to include the use of e-cigarettes. The list of locations and settings in which the Clean Indoor Air Act currently applies would remain the same.

The bill was amended to exempt vapor shops that meet certain criteria from the vaping prohibition. Vapor establishments must make 80 percent of its revenue through the sale of electronic smoking devices and substances used within electronic smoking devices, must be freestanding shops opening to the outdoors and must prohibit minors from entering. Shops not meeting those criteria still could sell e-cigarettes and related products, but customers would not be allowed to use them indoors.

“I’m pleased we were successful in working together, understanding each other’s concerns and creating a compromise that addressed concerns raised by vapor shop owners and e-cigarette users,” said Rep. Paul Baumbach, who authored the amendment with Rep. Bryon Short. “This amendment helped ensure the bill’s passage.”

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: the vapor alone contains at least 10 toxic chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects; rising e-cigarette use among teenagers, which surpassed traditional cigarette use in 2014; and an increased number of calls to California poison control centers related to e-cigarettes. Health departments in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee have issued warnings similar to California’s report.

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.