A number of new Connecticut laws took effect on Thursday, including one that subjects smoking an e-cigarette to many of the same restrictions as conventional smoking.
The new legislation was passed earlier this year.
"Our job is to to look at the public health as a whole in the state of Connecticut," said Rep. Matt Ritter, a Democrat from the 1st Assembly District. "We can't worry about what some felt was an inconvenience for them who wanted to smoke their e-cigarette maybe at a restaurant or a bar."
Ritter said there was testimony against it, but he thought the vast majority of the General Assembly thought it was good public policy.
Violating it carries a fine.
Lawmakers said there was enormous support for the law in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, partly because e-cigarettes are not regulated at the federal level.
"The concern with e-cigarettes in saying that they're ok would be bringing back sort of a normalization of smoking,” said Dr. Michelle Petrucelli, emergency physician, Hartford Hospital. “Something that was seen in the 50s and 60s. We've worked decades to get rid of that, to not have smoking everywhere."
Similar to traditional tobacco products, the new law bans the use of e-cigarettes in several locations, including state buildings, schools and health facilities.
They can still be used in certain places like marked smoking areas and businesses that serve alcohol.
The devices, which are battery-operated, use a simple mechanism that heats a liquid and creates a vapor that the user inhales.
“It's not water vapor,” Petrucelli said. “There is nicotine in there, and the nicotine has serious medical consequences."
Petrucelli said research showed “vaping” has the potential to lead to heart and lung disease. She also said while more studies need to be done, the other chemicals found in the liquids may have long-term health effects.
"There can be other things that are in that liquid [like] toxic metals, chromium, lead [and] tin. Ethylene glycol was found,” she explained. “That's antifreeze."
Since e-cigarettes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, there is no warning from the Surgeon General on the packaging.
Lawmakers said they anticipate the FDA taking a position on e-cigarettes in 2016.
For now, it does recommend gum or a patch as alternatives.
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