Madison alder: Council will likely add e-cigs to smoking ban

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Posted: Monday, January 5, 2015 --- 8:17 p.m.

Madison City Council will vote on a resolution Tuesday night to prohibit e-cigarette use in public places like bars, restaurants and most stores.

"Potentially we could find out these devices are completely safe and we would change the ordinance, or we could find like we did with cigarettes over the decades, those are really bad for not only you but the person next to you," said District Three Alder Lauren Cnare, lead sponsor of the resolution.

The proposal excludes vapor-specific stores, meaning electronic cigarettes could still be tested and used in stores dedicated specifically to selling the products.

"We're not banning the product, we're not banning the use of the product in any way, so their business should quite frankly continue as is," Cnare said.

Aidan Rueckl, co-owner of Mad-Vapor on Madison's west side, said he largely agrees with the proposal.

"I don't really think bartenders and servers should be subjected to the vapor," Rueckl said.

As a former tobacco user, Rueckl said he personally feels significantly better smoking electronic cigarettes compared with traditional cigarettes.

"I just feel a lot more energetic, I feel healthier," he said.

Although Rueckl often gets thanked by customers for helping them quit tobacco smoking, he doesn't think vapor is a fool-proof option.

"This is the better alternative. It's not safer, but better," Rueckl said.

At the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, Dr. Megan Piper has been researching e-cigarette use.

"Right now, e-cigarettes are completely unregulated in the United States, so we don't know what's in most of them," Piper said.

It's too early to know whether e-cigarettes are safe, although they may be safer than tobacco cigarettes, she said.

Piper's research focuses specifically on how e-cigarettes affect people's behavior, and whether people use them to help quit using tobacco cigarettes, or whether they use them in times when they can't quit.

"For example, when you can't smoke at work, would you use an e-cig and would that increase your level of tobacco dependence, making it harder for you to quit later when you decided to?" Piper said.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, the resolution is expected to pass, according to Cnare, since it has 12 co-sponsors, and an issue needs 11 votes to pass.