ST. PAUL — The state Senate approved a ban Thursday on using e-cigarettes in indoor public places as part of a larger package of health and human services bills.
Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, brought a familiar argument to the Senate floor: that the risks of e-cigarette vapor is unknown, and the public shouldn’t be asked to accept them.
“It’s not reasonable to ask that the … freedom to breathe benefits only be experienced by those in (state-owned) buildings,” she said.
Because the overall bill contained the ban, it was left to opponents such as Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, to attempt to edit it out. He sought to amend the bill to limit the public places ban to state-owned buildings.
He argued that e-cigarettes don’t present the same harms as cigarettes, including having less than 1/1300th of one particular chemical.
“It’s not the same as smoking a cigarette,” he said. “It’s not the same.”
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, was one of two Republicans to speak in favor of the indoor public places ban. Though other Republicans argued that a ban should wait until more is known, she said uncertainty should favor the ban.
“Seriously, members, we should tell kids that smoking is not good for you, I don’t care what form it is,” she said.
Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said e-cigarettes “renormalize” the act of smoking.
“It took us years to get the numbers (of smokers) to drop in middle schools and high schools,” she said.
Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said business owners should, in the absence of provable harm, be able to decide for themselves whether to allow e-cigarettes in their establishments.
"There’s no conclusive evidence that this in any way brings harm," he said. "Freedom should be our default.”