Close loophole on e-cigarettes, vaping

Proposed regulations for the liquids used in electronic cigarettes have advanced in the General Assembly, but significantly, “vaping” would not be added to the state’s smoking ban.

The state Senate and House have approved by wide margins similar bills on regulating the products.

Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, the bill’s sponsor, described the business as a “wild west” now, with no state or federal regulations on what can be included in the liquids used in refillable vapor pens or who can make, sell or buy those products.

State law bans the sale of e-cigarettes in sealed cartridges to those younger than 18, but Mahan said no such limits cover the liquid that goes in them. The bill would ban sales to minors, establish manufacturing safety standards and require child-proof and tamper-proof caps on containers.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and a coalition of health advocacy groups sent a letter to legislators early this month urging that e-cigarettes and the practice known as vaping be added to the 2012 state law that bans smoking in most public places. The letter called the omission of e-cigarettes and vaping a “significant loophole” to the smoking ban that allows people to leave “behind a vapor cloud containing nicotine with no consequences.”

“Not only does that scenario send the wrong message to teens exposed to e-cigarette users, there are unknown effects on those individuals nearby that experience the secondhand vapors,” said the letter, which was signed by officials from groups including the American Heart Association and the Indiana State Medical Association.

Mahan said most lawmakers favored establishing some regulations over vaping but that many were reluctant to include e-cigarettes in the smoking ban.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing regulations that include warning labels and ingredient lists on e-cigarettes, although enactment could take several years.

Not including vaping in the state smoking rules does indeed leave a loophole, and the General Assembly should close it. The vapor from the devices, while not fully analyzed, impacts nonsmokers. They deserve the same protection against e-cigarette fumes that they receive against regular tobacco smoke.

Communities also should review their smoking ordinances to include e-cigarettes and vaping along with tobacco and traditional smoking.