Rhode Island Is Treating Vapor Products Like Cigarettes In New Workplace Ban

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The use of electronic cigarettes is now banned in workplaces throughout Rhode Island over legislators’ fears regarding second-hand smoke.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed the proposal into law Friday, which amends the state’s Public Health and Workplace Safety Act to include all vapor products under the definition of “smoking.” The new law bans vaping in all enclosed public spaces, including offices, bars, restaurants and apartment buildings with more than four units, reports WPRI.

Unlike similar public space vape bans in other states, the bill carves out an exemption for stores that make at least a third of their revenue from vapor products. Officials claim the bill is intended to protect bystanders from second-hand emissions from the devices. (RELATED: UK Tobacco Data Shows As ‘E-Cigs Have Become Popular, Smoking Rates Have Fallen’)

“We must address newer forms of smoking, both to protect Rhode Islanders from secondhand smoke and to help address the misconception that those products are somehow not unhealthy,” said state Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, the lead sponsor of the bill, according to WPRI.

Despite the claims from Ruggerio, ample shows vapor products significantly reduce health harms from cigarettes by eliminating the combustion of tobacco. Recent research also shows vapor from e-cigarettes does not pose any meaningful secondhand risks.

A study published in the Journal of Aerosol Science in January shows that chemical levels in the vapor released from e-cigarettes are well below the safety limits suggested by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. The study determines that vaping is statistically 5,700 times less harmful to users than combustible cigarettes, drastically reducing the risk of developing smoking related illnesses.

Critics of vaping crackdowns say public space bans actually undermine public health goals by restricting use of the products to areas where smoking is allowed. Smokers may be less likely to ever attempt quitting with a vape if the products are relegated to the status of combustible cigarettes.

An article from a group of scientists appearing in the Annual Review of Public Health in April 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.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of smokers quit the deadly habit.

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