RACINE — At Dewey’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, 600 Main St., bar manager Jason DuMont sees people at his bar with an e-cigarette a few times a week.
“It’s not like where you used to walk in a bar and everyone was smoking,” said DuMont. But it’s not uncommon.
In Wisconsin, even though there is an indoor smoking ban, using e-cigarettes indoors is allowed.
But the way the law is written, “it’s a little bit murky,” said Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester. E-cigarettes are growing in popularity and the law should be cleared up to show they are legal, Vos said.
Under the state’s indoor smoking ban, smoking is defined as burning or holding, or inhaling or exhaling smoke from any lighted piece of smoking equipment containing tobacco.
Based on that definition, e-cigarettes are allowed indoors because they
don’t contain tobacco and don’t emit smoke, according to Rachel VerVelde, chief of staff for state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, who authored the Senate bill to clarify the law.
Good or bad?
E-cigarettes contain water, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, flavors and some have nicotine, but they do not contain tobacco, said Kristin Noll-Marsh, vice president of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, a national nonprofit.
Also, the devices don’t burn anything; they act more like a fog machine and they are safer than tobacco products, said Noll-Marsh, a Racine native who now lives in northern Wisconsin.
But Kayleen Kinsley, a program manager for Focus on Community, who works with youth tobacco prevention and education in Racine County, said one of her concerns is that the devices aren’t really regulated and there are still a lot of questions about what sort of secondhand emissions the e-cigarettes give off. She is happy that some establishments such as Buffalo Wild Wings have decided on their own not to allow e-cigarettes.
Dan DuMont, who owns Dewey’s, said if a customer ever approached him with a concern about e-cigarettes he would ask the person with the e-cigarette to put it away. But he said no one has come to him with issues about it.
Racine City Tavern League President Lou Larson said it’s always been clear to him that e-cigarettes weren’t part of the ban.
“It’s more the general public ... people are confused,” said Larson, who owns Peg and Lou’s, 3113 Douglas Ave.
Ultimately, Larson said, the law should be clarified.
“It’s always good for laws to be clear,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to understand.”
About the proposed e-cigarette bill
The bills adds clarity to the state’s smoking ban by specifying that the term “smoking” does not include holding, inhaling or exhaling vapor or a vaporized solution from an electronic device that does not contain tobacco. The Senate version, SB 440, passed through the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on Thursday with a 3-2 vote, but has not been scheduled for a floor vote. Its companion bill, AB 762, had a hearing, but has not been voted out of committee, although Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he supports the bill.