Law banning electronic cigarettes in public starts Oct. 15

New e-cigarette ban sparks controversy

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A law that prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes in the same public places where smoking is banned is set to take effect in the coming days.

The new law bans electronic cigarettes in places such as restaurants, playgrounds and beaches where traditional cigarettes are prohibited. The law goes into effect on Thursday.

Maine House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, a Skowhegan Democrat, says the law is "a matter of public health." He says the law will prevent children, seniors and others who are sensitive to smoke and vapor from exposure to them.

Bangor's Public Health Director Patty Hamilton said this bill is a win for public health. "We encouraged the state to do it, we encouraged the legislature to do it, and the fact that they did from a population health standpoint is really wonderful."

Though the health community doesn't have too much information on vaping, she sees this ban as a method of prevention. She said "because we don't know a lot about the vaping and the e-cigarettes, I think people are airing more on the side of health until we get more data and we get more information."

But that lack of information is exactly why so many people are opposed to this new law.

"How can you ban something you know don't know anything about?" said Brewer vape shop owner Mark Braveman. "And that's kind of where it seems to be right now. There has yet to be any evidence that it's good OR bad."

"What we do know is that oxygen is what we need in our lungs and not other things. So we want to air on the side of safety," added Hamilton. She sees the lack of information, but still believes there are guaranteed health risks to vaping.

Hamilton believes that e-cigarettes are being mistaken as a safe form of smoking. She's concerned about the continued use of nicotine - the addictive part of a cigarette.

"That sort of normalizes smoking or nicotine use. And so our hope is that this will kind of put it in the same category as a tobacco product - which it is."

Despite the ongoing argument about the health risks, there is one thing both sides agree on, and that is stopping the underage use of e-cigarettes. Braveman is adamant about his ID policy, and will refuse anyone under the age of 18 entry to his store.

Hamilton and other health professionals hope that the new law "will decrease access and availability which will decrease teen use."

Maine restaurants went smoke-free in 2004 and other areas followed five years later.


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