Debate continues on use of e-cigarettes

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Nick Crow
Sunday, March 9, 2014

JANESVILLE—Some Wisconsin lawmakers are moving to pass legislation that would differentiate between electronic cigarettes and regular cigarettes to allow e-cigarettes to be smoked indoors despite the state's 2009 indoor smoking ban.

“Wisconsin seems to be one of the first states to point out the difference between vapor and tobacco,” Ben Bawazir, employee at Smokers World, 2622 E. Milwaukee St., in Janesville, said. “I think its pretty forward thinking.”

Bawazir, 26, said using e-cigarettes has helped him to curb his smoking habit. He sees the water vapor he inhales as not nearly as bad for him as cigarette smoke.

“I think it's a lot less bad for you,” Bawazir said. “I went from smoking a pack and a half a day to two or three cigarettes a day. It helps you to quit.”

He said his shop has seen an increase of doing $60-$75 in e-cigarette business a day six months ago to $1,000-$1,500 a day now.

“I think they shouldn't ban it as long as it's up to the discretion of the business owner,” Bawazir said. “The main selling point of it is that you can do it anywhere.”

Wisconsin's bill was introduced by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, according to an Associated Press report. Advocates of his bill say e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes and wean smokers off cigarettes. Opponents say the vapors can contain heavy metals and other toxins, according to the Associated Press report.

“I wanted to quit smoking in general and it just became sort of a hobby,” Janesville resident Josh Schultz said. “It's good for quitting the habit. I've been smoking since I was 16 and was steadily increasing. E-cigs have helped me to quit.”

Bawazir said the e-cigarettes cost between $25-$40 to initially buy the device and then another $7-$10  to buy new "juice", which is the flavoring of the vapor containing varying levels of nicotine.

"Depending on how much they do it, it lasts a week and a half to two weeks," Bawazir said. "Compare that to a pack a day smoker. Seven dollars a day compared to $7 every week and a half to two weeks."

But not everyone agrees they are a healthy alternative. Debbie Fischer, director of Youth2Youth of Rock County and the Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, said she is concerned of the health effects of e-cigarettes.

“Clean air has helped with keeping people away from the harmful effects of tobacco,” Fischer said. “The FDA is considering regulation. That tells you that it probably isn't the safest thing.”

Fischer said her group doesn't take a stance one way or another on the specific legislation but focuses on education and awareness for people.

E-cigarettes contain a flavored liquid, which is heated by a coil in the devices and turned into vapor, according to the Associated Press. Its contents include nicotine, flavoring, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, said the Associated Press report.

“The point is that it's less bad for you,” Bawazir said. “Would you rather have people continue to smoke cigarettes? Some people say it's just switching addictions, but it's not smoking, it's vaporizing.”

The committee took no action on the bill and there is little time left during this legislative session to act on the proposal, according to the Associated Press report.

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