A bill that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in most restaurants and other businesses failed to clear a Senate committee on Wednesday, but its sponsor indicated he plans to present it again.
Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Cheatham, D-Crossett, would expand the state's indoor smoking ban, passed in 2006, to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in the same places where smoking is banned.
Arkansas Department of Health Director Nate Smith told members of the Senate Health, Welfare and Labor Committee that "emerging evidence" shows that the liquid used in electronic cigarettes contains toxic substances.
The vapor devices also pose challenges for employers, he said.
"It's really impossible for them to know whether their employees are using nicotine or some other substance that may or may not be legal," he said.
The state's 2006 law allows smoking in restaurants or bars that are open to customers age 21 and up only, don't employ people younger than 21 and display a sign warning customers that they will be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Bull Shoals, said that business owners should be allowed to choose whether they want to allow electronic-cigarette use and that potential customers can decide if they want to patronize the business.
"At a certain point on the path that we're going, pretty soon Mountain Dew, Taco Bell ... when is that theoretically going to be next?" Flippo asked.
The bill fell two votes short of the eight needed for a favorable recommendation. At Cheatham's request, the committee then voted to expunge the earlier vote, giving Cheatham at least two more chances to attempt to gain the panel's approval.
A Section on 03/02/2017