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Politics & Government

Wisconsin Lawmakers Expected to Resurrect Vaping Discussion

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Marti Mikkelson
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Wisconsin lawmakers may decide in coming weeks whether to add e-cigarettes to the state’s indoor smoking ban.

Electronic cigarettes are battery powered sticks that convert liquid nicotine into a vapor. They don’t contain tar, so they’re considered less harmful than regular smokes but still appear to release toxins.

State legislators are expected to introduce competing bills about vaping.

When walking in to Lakeview Vapor in Bay View, you may be greeted with the scent of strawberry and watermelon, along with a cloud of smoke. One person drawing off an e-cigarette is Matt Murphy. He owns this store in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. Murphy says he used to be a chain smoker.

“I tried everything. I quit for ten years, smoked one cigarette at a bar and I was back on it like I never even quit. The second I found this product, I pretty much was able to put down the cigarettes,” Murphy says.

Murphy believes vaping saved his life – he considers it safer than regular smoking.

“I vape everywhere. I’m very discreet about it. When I vape, half the time people don’t even know I’m vaping. I’ll hit it real lightly, I was even vaping in the movie theater yesterday,” Murphy says.

Murphy says no one has ever told him to stop, but he’s afraid the state might. Joe Ventimiglia also worries that the Legislature may ban vaping in many indoor places, such as bars and restaurants. Ventimiglia is a customer at Lakeview Vapor.

“Some politicians just get a bug up their butt and just because they ban smoking, now they want to ban this indoors too and they haven’t found anything wrong with it,” Ventimiglia says.

Currently, Wisconsin business owners can set their own rules about vaping. One person who wants to fold it into the state’s indoor smoking ban is Democratic Rep. Deb Kolste.

“I just think they’re dangerous. We now know that the New England Journal of Medicine came out with the first really regarded study that shows the amount of formaldehyde in vaping is pretty high. We know that formaldehyde is a category one carcinogen,” Kolste says.

Kolste plans on introducing her bill soon, yet admits it probably faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. GOP Rep. Joel Kleefisch plans to counter with a measure that would exempt vaping from the indoor smoking ban.

“It wasn’t a secret that I opposed the original smoking ban and voted against it because I believe that in the USA we should allow business owners the right to allow legal products to be used in their establishment,” Kleefisch says.

Kleefisch says customers can vote with their pocketbooks, as to whether they spend money in places that allow e-cigarettes.

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