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Electronic Cigarettes Added to Rhode Island Smokefree Law

A new law recently signed by Governor Gina Raimondo prohibits electronic cigarette use in most indoor workplaces and public places.

hero_image_alt_text===An E-Cigarette.

In early July, Governor Gina Raimondo signed a new law that adds electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems to the Rhode Island Public Health and Workplace Safety Act. Back in 2005, this law banned smoking in most enclosed public places, including private businesses, restaurants, grocery stores and other retail establishments. The new law updates the Rhode Island Public Health and Workplace Safety Act to ensure the use of electronic devices is also prohibited. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, the bill’s sponsor, noted “For more than a decade, our state has prohibited smoking in most workplaces due to the dangers of secondhand smoke. But most of us had never heard of e-cigarettes or vaping back in 2004 when we enacted that ban. Since then, use of those products has taken off. In Rhode Island and nationwide, use of e-cigarettes by youth has surpassed the use of conventional cigarettes. We must address newer forms of smoking, both to protect Rhode Islanders from secondhand smoke and to help address the misconception that those products are somehow not unhealthy. The intent of the smoking ban was to eliminate smoking in the workplace, and this legislation brings our law up to date to address smoking in all its forms.”

The new law creates exemptions for stores (other than mall kiosks) that primarily sell electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery products and accessories – and for vape bars/lounges, which are businesses that will be allowed to sell and serve food and alcohol along with the sale and use of electronic nicotine delivery system devices. In addition, the use of electronic devices will be permitted at casinos. During legislative consideration of this measure, the American Heart Association and several other public health organizations and state departments expressed concerns with the exemptions (particularly for vape bars/lounges). However, the provisions were retained in the bill and will now become law.

Based on the exemptions above, there is ample room for improvements to the Rhode Island Public Health and Workplace Safety Act in order to protect the health of ALL of Rhode Island's workforce.

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