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Bill Would Treat E-cigarettes Like Other Tobacco


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California would treat electronic cigarettes like any other tobacco product by restricting where people can use them in public under a bill approved by the state Senate on Friday.

Some of the vapors or nicotine emitted by the e-cigarettes may pose health risks, said Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward. Her SB648 would impose the same limits that apply to other smokers on where the devices can be used under California's existing smoke-free laws.

The Senate approved the bill, 21-10, on Friday, sending it to the Assembly.

Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine objected, saying the e-cigarettes are a popular alternative for those who are trying to stop smoking.

"My phone's been ringing off the hook," Anderson said. "There are so many smokers who this has changed their lives, it's given them a new lease on life. It's gotten them off the cigarettes."

A 2010 law also sponsored by Corbett already makes it unlawful to sell or furnish electronic cigarettes anyone under 18.

Health organizations back Corbett's recent bill, but the Electronic Cigarette Industry Group objects that there is no proof that their product emits secondhand smoke that can harm bystanders. The harm to the user is similar to that caused by other smokeless tobacco products, according to the industry.

While the health effect is a matter of debate and further study, Corbett said the state should err on the side of protecting the public.

The devices are often made to look like cigarettes, cigars or pipes, but can be disguised to look like pens or computer memory sticks so they can be used discreetly.

Corbett said Amtrak has already banned their use on trains, and the Navy doesn't allow their use below decks in submarines. The U.S. Department of Transportation is also proposing to ban their use on airplanes because of the possible health risks.

If the devices are added to California's smoke-free laws, they also could not be used in the workplace, schools, public buildings, day care centers, restaurants or health facilities.