By Brian Marron
ANNAPOLIS—Smoking electronic cigarettes would be banned indoors in public places as part of Marylands Clean Indoor Air Act under a bill Delegate Aruna Miller, D-Montgomery, presented Wednesday at a hearing of the House Economic Matters Committee.
Miller said though electronic cigarettes—a relatively new product—are seen as a healthy alternative to tobacco-based cigarettes, the health effects are still being studied and the devices are not approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
We need to err on the side of public health until all the evidence comes out, said Miller, who unsuccessfully pushed for the bill last year.
Miller cited the unknown risks of their second-hand vapors and the risk of electronic cigarettes becoming popular among youth. The cigarettes are legal for vapers 18 and older.
An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that mimics smoking a traditional cigarette. Unlike a tobacco cigarette, it emits vapor, not smoke.
E-cigarettes contain a liquid solution that usually contains a mix of nicotine, flavoring, and propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. The device heats up the solution to emit vapor that users inhale.
Miller hopes an amendment she plans to introduce that would exempt smoke lounges and shops, mostly small businesses, will increase the chance that the bill does not meet the same fate it did in 2014.
The Clean Indoor Air Act, passed in Maryland in 2007, prohibits smoking in indoor public places, including bars, restaurants, schools, athletic facilities and government buildings, among others.
Three states, New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah, have banned the use of electronic cigarettes in public places.
The bill, which would become effective in October, includes the hiring of a six-month worker by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for fiscal 2016 to coordinate and regulate the ban and work with local businesses, government and the public. Legislative services estimated the position would cost the state about $26,000 including salary and benefits.
Delegate Clarence Lam, D-Baltimore and Howard, a physician, testified in support of the legislation, citing the unknown effects of electronic smoking and its potential to harm children.
Opposition to the bill was also present in the crowded hearing room Wednesday.
Phil Briggs, an advertising consultant for 99.9 WFRE radio in Frederick, said electronic cigarettes are too closely associated with traditional smoking methods even if some studies show they are healthier.
To categorically ban (electronic cigarettes) because you dont like the word nicotine or smoke doesnt mean you should ban it, said Briggs, who has clients associated with smoke shops for both WFRE and his own small production company.
Briggs also said the bill is a step back for public health because it limits alternative smoking options.