Va. legislation would ban use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants, some public places

Posted at 11:21 AM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 18:12:26-05

RICHMOND, Va. - State lawmakers are looking at a proposal that would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in some public places in Virginia, such as restaurants.

According to Senator John C. Miller (D-Newport News), a bill would expand the definition of "smoking" in the Virginia Indoor Clean Act to include e-cigarettes, also known as vapor products.

Miller said he introduced the bill to protect people from exposure to e-cigarette vapor in restaurants.

Owner of E-Cig City in Virginia Beach, Chris Ebilane, says he also agrees that users need to be respectful in public settings.

However, he says he disagrees that the vapors might be harmful.

"Cigarettes are a  combustible, there's a flame in it, whereas vaping there isn't, because it's not a combustible substance," he says. "It should be up to the business owners if they want to allow it or not, it shouldn't be mandatory by a state, or county, or cities."

The battery-powered devices are used by some smokers as an alternative to conventional cigarettes, which have been banned from Virginia restaurants since 2009.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers do not know the potential risks, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled, or whether there are any benefits with using the products.

The only e-cigarettes that are regulated by the FDA are those that are marketed for therapeutic purposes.

The bill would also prohibit e-cigarette use in areas such as movie theatres, malls, elevators, cashier lines, schools, school buses, and day care centers.

Johnny Mallozzi, manager of 219 American Bistro in downtown Norfolk, says he would not  let customers use e-cigarettes in the restaurant regardless.

However, he says it also has not been a problem.

"I think maybe a year ago one person had attempted to take one out and that was it," he says. " I think everybody who eats and drinks would rather do it without smoking."

Senator Miller tells NewsChannel 3 that he expects the Local Government Committee to hear the bill within the next week or two.

His hope is that it will head to the Senate for a vote after that.