State lawmakers are considering a bill that would further restrict public smoking and clarify that those restrictions also apply to electronic cigarettes.
Senate Bill 990 would bar smokers from lighting up outside if they are within 25-feet of a doorway, window or building vent. It would also end an existing exemption regarding smoking in the workplace by covering all employers, except home-based businesses in which the owner is the sole employee. Currently businesses with five or fewer workers are exempt.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association raised some questions about the proposed changes. The group, which represents more than 500 restaurants across the state, noted that customers often smoke outside of restaurants, usually close to the entrance. If that practice is banned, who would be responsible for ensuring compliance, the group asked in a letter to lawmakers.
Public health proponents hailed the measure. \”Moving tobacco use 25 feet away from all doorways and windows of properties defined as tobacco-free helps to protect the health and wellbeing of anyone entering/exiting these establishments,\’\’ John O\’Rourke, the coordinator of a smoking-cessation program, told the panel.
\”Studies have shown that a person with an acute heart disorder is at increased risk of a cardiac event with minimal exposure to secondhand smoke. By moving tobacco use further away from buildings, we improve the health of everyone,\’\’ O\’Rourke said.
But it was the proposed addition of e-cigarettes to a list that includes cigarettes, cigars and pipes that has drawn the most controversy. The measure was the subject of a hearing Friday by the legislature\’s public health committee.
The state Department of Public Health maintains that the use of e-cigarettes is already restricted under existing laws, but commissioner Jewel Mullen said the department wants the restriction codified in the bill to counteract the claims of manufacturers who say their product is safe.
\”The impact of e-cigarettes on health is not yet known,\” Mullen testified. \”With regard to their use indoors, we cannot assume that they are safe without scientific evidence, despite manufacturer claims to the contrary.\”
Use of e-cigarettes is growing and several users wrote in urging lawmakers to reject the bill. They argued that using an electronic cigarettes is preferable to lighting up.
\”Tobacco cigarettes deliver many dangerous chemicals but electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine without those dangerous chemicals or offensive odor,\” Jason Perry of the Rockfall section of Middlefield wrote in testimony presented to the public health committee. \”I often use my electronic cigarette indoors and due to the lack of odor and the fact that my e-cigarette looks nothing like a cigarette, it is rarely even noticed.\”
Tanya Jackisch of Wallingford told lawmakers in written testimony that she\’s been smoke-free for a year and a half, thanks to e-cigarettes.
\”I know I speak for many smokers when I say I earned my right not to smell like an ashtray,\’\’ Jackisch wrote.