Proposed regulations for the liquids used in electronic cigarettes that advanced Wednesday in the Indiana Legislature wouldn't add "vaping" to the state's smoking ban as the state attorney general and several health advocacy groups had requested.
The state Senate and House have approved by wide margins similar bills on regulating the products, and the Senate Public Policy Committee voted 9-0 to endorse the House-backed proposal.
Bill sponsor Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, described the business as a "wild west" now, with no state or federal regulations on what can be included in the liquids used in refillable vapor pens or who can make, sell or buy those products.
State law bans the sale of e-cigarettes in sealed cartridges to those younger than 18, but Mahan said no such limits cover the liquid that goes in them.
The bill would ban sales to minors, establish manufacturing safety standards and require child-proof and tamper-proof caps on containers.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and a coalition of health advocacy groups sent a letter to legislators on Tuesday urging that e-cigarettes and the practice known as vaping be added to the 2012 state law that bans smoking in most public places.
The letter called the omission of e-cigarettes and vaping a "significant loophole" to the smoking ban that allows people to leave "behind a vapor cloud containing nicotine with no consequences."
"Not only does that scenario send the wrong message to teens exposed to e-cigarette users, there are unknown effects on those individuals nearby that experience the secondhand vapors," said the letter, which was signed by officials from groups including the American Heart Association and the Indiana State Medical Association.
Mahan said most lawmakers favored establishing some regulations over vaping but that many were reluctant to include e-cigarettes in the smoking ban.
"What I hear from folks is that the jury is still out on whether these are safe or whether these are not safe," he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing regulations that include warning labels and ingredient lists on e-cigarettes, although enactment could take several years.
E-cigarettes have become more visible as they grow in popularity and commercials for the products air in places where traditional cigarette ads have been banned. Businesses related to e-cigarettes, including vaping lounges, are popping up in cities across the state.
Several owners of vaping-related businesses told Senate committee members it would cost them thousands of dollars to comply with the proposed regulations.
Those rules could force many businesses to close and Indiana could end up with only a handful of manufacturers, said Evan McMahon of Hoosier Vapers, which represents numerous vaping stores around the state.
"We're willing to come to reasonable terms to make sure that we are respecting the intent of the state being a party to verifying we are providing a safe product to our consumers," he said. "We just don't want to be shut down as an unintended consequence."