A contentious bill to ban smoking in the workplace moved forward Tuesday after lawmakers took measures restricting electronic cigarettes out of the proposal.
Members of the Alaska House Rules Committee voted in favor of a revised version of a workplace smoking ban that initially included vaping devices under the umbrella of prohibited products. Committee chairwoman Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, a Republican, allowed the proposal to move forward Tuesday after delaying a hearing for most of the 2018 legislative session, reports Alaska Public Media.
The unaltered smoking ban previously passed in the Senate last year. The revised proposal removes vaping devices from the indoor ban, along with marijuana.
“I’ve got some questions about this entire bill,” said LeDoux, according to Alaska Public Media. “But, nevertheless, in order to extend an olive branch to the people who really want this bill, (she is) trying to get this bill in a reasonable form so that we can get it to the floor.”
The decision to pull vaping from the bill is a major win for advocates of harm reduction, who argue vapor products should never be conflated with combustible cigarettes under the law due to the vastly different health impacts of the products.
Major health groups in England, like the Royal College of Physicians, agree that using e-cigarettes eliminates up to 95 percent of the health harms attributed to cigarettes, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke. They also recommend vaping to patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products.
An article from a group of scientists appearing in the Annual Review of Public Health this month argues that the mounting scientific evidence on e-cigarettes favors the argument that vaping drastically reduces the health risks from combustible tobacco. They say the public health community must work to correct misinformation that the devices carry similar harms to cigarettes, which is currently dominating mainstream media coverage of vaping.
The group includes scientists from New York University (NYU), the Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies, the Truth Initiative, the University of Nevada and the University of Vermont.
If the revised smoking ban in Alaska passes a full vote in the state House it will still have to go back to the Senate for approval.
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