Craig Thompson, a sales associate at Infinite Vapor on University Avenue, Madison, uses an e-cigarette.

AMBER ARNOLD -- State Journal archives

Local governments could not broadly ban electronic cigarettes in public places, as Madison did in January, under a bill to be introduced next week by a Republican lawmaker.

Another bill introduced this week by a Democratic legislator would add e-cigarettes, or vaping, to the state’s indoor smoking ban.

The measures come amid growing use of e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid nicotine. The devices aren’t covered by the state’s 2010 indoor smoking ban.

Proponents of e-cigarettes say their lack of tar and carbon monoxide make them healthier than regular cigarettes, but opponents say e-cigarettes contain heavy metals and may be harmful to others. The opponents say smokers should use medications, patches and gums, not e-cigarettes, to try to quit.

“The increasing popularity and marketing of electronic cigarettes has far outpaced the scientific research necessary to deem them safe for either the users or for those around them,” the Wisconsin chapters of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association said in a statement.

A bill by Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, would prevent local governments from banning e-cigarettes in buildings other than municipal property. The bill would prohibit vaping statewide in hospitals, public or private elementary and secondary schools, and child care centers when children are present.

Backed by taverns

The bill will be introduced next week, said Ashlee Moore, an aide to Kleefisch. Moore said the bill has at least 15 Republican co-sponsors and is supported by the Tavern League of Wisconsin and Johnson Creek Enterprises, a Hartland-based manufacturer of vaping juices and other products.

“Municipalities all over our state are rushing to enact ordinances that force companies to restrict the use of vaping devices and inexplicably place them in the same category as regular tobacco cigarettes,” Christian Berkey, CEO of Johnson Creek Enterprises said in a letter Thursday to legislators.

The bill would overturn Madison’s ban on e-cigarettes in most public places, along with similar policies in Onalaska, Ashwaubenon and Greenfield, said Sara Sahli with the Wisconsin chapter of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

The bill could also impact a proposed change to Madison’s zoning code. The change would ban tobacco and e-cigarette retailers within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, playgrounds, youth centers, parks, libraries and health care facilities.

Ald. Lauren Cnare, who introduced the measure adding e-cigarettes to Madison’s smoking ban, said Kleefisch’s bill would undermine local control and allow people to be exposed to potentially harmful vapors that are unregulated and largely unstudied.

“Each community knows best what it needs to do for its local residents,” Cnare said. “It’s good to be prudent about public health.”

A bill introduced Wednesday by Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville, would include vaping in the state smoking ban. The measure is co-sponsored by 11 Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Scott Allen of Waukesha.

Allen is “definitely against smoking of any kind,” said his aide, Keith Best.

The cancer society, heart association and lung association, along with other medical groups, oppose Kleefisch’s bill. But they are staying neutral on Kolste’s bill.

The state smoking ban has been very effective, said Sahli, of the cancer society. “If we open it up, there’s a possibility it could get weakened or repealed,” she said.


David Wahlberg is the health and medicine reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.