Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act that bars smoking indoors and other public areas is due for an update to keep pace with changes such as electronic cigarettes, according to a pair of state representatives.
The law was enacted in 2006 to address the dangers of secondhand smoke and updated in 2013 after the state legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana. It limits where people can smoke and acknowledges the unhealthy effects of secondhand smoke. Now the law needs to take into account e-cigarettes, vaporizing pens and similar devices, say the co-sponsors of House Bill 1076, Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Rep. Colin Larson, R-Littleton.
The state House Health and Insurance Committee approved the bill Wednesday on a 10-1 vote, sending it to the full House.
Updating the law would discourage the state’s children from taking up the habit, Michaelson Jenet and Larson said. Already, they noted, children in Colorado are twice as likely to use e-cigarettes as those in other states, Michaelson Jenet said.
Colorado leads the nation in youth vaping, according to the most recent national Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Colorado had the highest rate of youth vaping among the 37 states surveyed, with one in four high school students taking up the habit.
The El Paso County Board of Health also recently declared youth vaping a public health crisis.
Even the flavors offered by the relatively new brands and devices are meant to attract children, Larson said. He said a teacher at a high school near his home told him many eighth-graders arrive at the school already addicted to nicotine.
“Mango makes the experience seem harmless,” Larson said, quoting the teacher.
Limiting the public use of e-cigarettes would curb the number of children who take up the habit, maintain clean air for those wishing to avoid harmful chemicals and save the state on future medical costs, Larson said.
“We know from the original Clean Indoor Air Act that we saw reduced instances of smoking among youth,” Michaelson Jenet said. “(The bill) is clearly communicating that we are putting this on the level of tobacco use.”
The majority of children don’t think the vapor emitted from the devices is as harmful as cigarette smoke, leading to increased use which can damage their still-developing bodies and brains, many of the witnesses who testified for the bill said.
“There is no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke or vapor,” one witness said.
Opponents who testified saw the bill as yet another attack on smokers, infringing on their right to do with their bodies as they please.
KOne opponent who testified, Kenny Breeding, referred to himself as a medical marijuana refugee and denounced the measure as an “attempt to make cannabis patients and consumers criminals again.”
The bill would discourage the legal use of marijuana, medical or recreational, among adults, Breeding said.
Others, who said they require the use of medical marijuana to prevent seizures or quell pain, said they would be breaking the law under the bill if they vaped in public in an emergency.
Edibles and other methods of taking medical marijuana aren’t an alternative to vaping because of the risk of over consumption and a delay in taking effect, they said.
But Larson and Michaelson Jenet said medical marijuana users are covered under an existing federal law.
“We are not trying to deprive anybody of their medicine,” Larson said. “I expect that the Americans with Disabilities act would cover that as much as any other protection we can offer in state law.”
But if a business owner does confront someone using medical marijuana“that is your opportunity to explain ‘I am utilizing my medicine to ward off a painful emergency situation,” Michaelson Jenet said.
Most, if not all, businesses would make reasonable accommodations, Larson said.
Breeding disputed that the bill would have a deterrent effect on children.
“It’s already illegal for kids to have e-cigs in school, or anywhere else for that matter,” he said. “Children are not a viable reason for this law.”
Another opponent, Tyler Prock, said parents should be responsible for keeping electronic cigarettes out of the hands of their children.
“Bring back spanking if we need to,” Prock said. “There’s no reason to nanny me like I’m your kid.”
The House could vote on the bill this week.
Jakob Rodgers contributed to this article.