The state House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill that, if enacted into law, would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in nearly every place traditional cigarettes are banned in Connecticut.
House members voted Thursday 99-46 to pass H.B. 6283, An Act Regulating Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems And Vapor Products, following about 15 minutes of discussion about the legislation.
The bill prohibits the use of e-cigarettes — which don’t burn tobacco or produce smoke, instead producing a vapor — in all buildings owned, operated, or leased by the state, all health care institutions, restaurants and bars, schools, elevators, public and private college dormitories, dog race tracks, and places that simulcast off-track betting race programs or jai alai games.
The bill was introduced by the Public Health Committee and is a combination and compromise of three e-cigarette bills that came before the committee, according to committee co-chair Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford.
“We really worked hard to come up with a bipartisan product,” Ritter said.
The bill mirrors the Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans the smoking of tobacco cigarettes in certain areas, with one exception, Ritter said.
The legislation does not ban “vaping” in workplaces, whereas tobacco cigarettes are banned in those places.
Several lawmakers spoke in support of the bill before the vote.
“This (bill) certainly goes a long way,” said Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, who added that e-cigarettes are “highly addictive” and there are “overwhelming dangers” of second-hand vapor.
“There are kids at such young ages at school now that have picked up e-cigarettes,” Godfrey said, and the legislation will help reduce vaping among young people.
It would be merely a “minor inconvenience” for e-cigarette users to have to go outside to vape, Godfrey said. “We’re not trying to make these people public outcasts,” he said.
But Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, a former smoker, said she would not have been able to kick the habit without e-cigarettes and called the proposed bill “punitive.”
“It’s kind of a deterrent for people who have quit smoking to have to go outside, with smokers,” she said, adding she opposes the legislation.
Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, also spoke in opposition of the bill because it allows the use of e-cigarettes in correctional facilities and public housing developments.
Ritter said those two places are exempt from prohibition under the legislation because they are similarly exempt in the Indoor Clean Air Act.
At a Public Health Committee public hearing in March, health advocates including the Connecticut State Medical Society urged lawmakers to ban e-cigarettes where tobacco products are banned. Companies that make and sell e-cigarettes passionately spoke out about the bill at the hearing, as did former tobacco smokers who said they would have been unable to quit smoking without e-cigarettes.
Prior to the bill’s passage Thursday, House members approved an amendment that made technical changes to the bill and eliminated one section entirely. The section involved a $180,000 fiscal note pertaining to measures to potentially make e-cigarettes child tamper-proof, in accordance with potential new U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommendations.
“It’s something we would have loved to have done in better times,” Ritter said of the stricken section. “But given the fiscal climate, a decision had to be made to move forward with a bill and this is the one the Public Health Committee made.”
Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, spoke against the amendment, saying, “I appreciate the fact that we’re trying to save money here; I’m not sure this would be my favorite place to choose.”