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WI Legislature Takes Up Question of Banning E-Cigarettes

PHOTO: The American Lung Association in Wisconsin says no one really knows if e-cigarettes are safe, and says the President should get the FDA involved in studying and regulating them. Photo courtesy FDA.
PHOTO: The American Lung Association in Wisconsin says no one really knows if e-cigarettes are safe, and says the President should get the FDA involved in studying and regulating them. Photo courtesy FDA.
March 5, 2014

BROOKFIELD, Wis. - A public hearing will be held at the State Capitol today on a bill by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, that exempts e-cigarettes from Wisconsin's smoke-free air law.

Right now, they're not regulated, which Dona Wininsky, director of public policy and communications for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, believes is wrong.

"Right now there's over 250 different brands," she said. "Each has its own combination of ingredients, and over half of them have candy and fruit flavors. Our position is that the Food and Drug Administration needs to issue some kind of regulations over these products."

Grothman contends there is no harm from e-cigarettes and that no one is exposed to secondhand smoke from them. But according to Wininsky, it's unknown if they're safe.

"There've been no short-term or long-term health studies on their use," she said. "Again, it all falls back to the FDA. They're really the only authority that can make that decision. The ball's in the president's court. He's got the authority to make the FDA issue regulations on e-cigarettes. Our position at the Lung Association is, he needs to be doing that."

According to Consumer Reports, sales of e-cigarettes reached $1.5 billion last year, nearly triple the previous year. Often, they're marketed as a way to quit smoking. But Wininsky said if smokers want to quit, they can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or talk with their doctor.

Wininsky added one of the Lung Association's biggest concerns is that e-cigarettes are marketed to young people.

"Over 100 of those brands come in candy and fruit flavors," she said. "Naturally they're going to attract kids. Do you know of an adult that is going to want to smoke a bubble-gum flavored product? Very few will. And on top of that, we do know that middle- and high-school use has doubled in just a year. The tobacco industry is using the same tactics to get kids to use e-cigarettes that they used to get them to start smoking."

Get quit smoking information online at lung.org.

Read the text of Sen. Grothman's bill, SB440, at the Wisconsin Legislature's website.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI