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E-Cigarettes Lights Up Capitol Fight

Publication Date: 2015-03-30
  • Author:Steve Walters
  • Publication:

Add one more controversy to the long list pending in the Wisconsin Legislature: e-cigarettes.

It's a three-sided debate: Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch wants to tell local governments they can’t ban e-cigarettes. Democratic Rep. Debra Kolste wants to add e-cigarettes to the statewide indoor smoking ban. And others ask whether Wisconsin should follow Minnesota's lead and levy a new tax on them...

Kleefisch’s party controls the Legislature. Let’s start with him.

The Oconomowoc Republican is putting the final touches on a bill pre-empting local governments from enacting their own e-cigarette bans. If it became law, it would repeal bans enacted by Madison, Onalaska, Greenfield and Ashwaubenon, according to the American Cancer Society Action Network.

"I do not believe it is government's place to tell a private business owner they may not allow a legal activity in their establishment," Kleefisch said in an interview. And, what e-cig users exhale is "not smoke -- it's vapor," he added.

But several health-care advocacy groups and the League of Wisconsin Municipalities are fighting Kleefisch’s pre-emption proposal, which he said has about 15 co-sponsors.

A March 18 letter of opposition came from groups that include the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Wisconsin Medical Society, American Lung Association, Wisconsin Nurses Association and the Wisconsin Public Health Association. "This legislation is premature and potentially dangerous," the letter noted. "There is little known about the health effects and long-term consequences of electronic cigarette both on users and bystanders…Preserve local governments ability to craft laws that meet the needs of their communities."...