ST. PAUL, Minn. - Are e-cigarettes the next public health menace or a safe alternative to the real thing?
That question is at the core of a debate that is winding its way through the State Capitol.
The latest stop for a bill that would include a ban on e-cigarettes in public places was the Senate's Health, Human Services and Housing committee.
On Monday night, the committee voted in favor of the bill. It still has a long way to go on the legislative road, but another senate hearing is scheduled this week.
The bill would not only ban use of e-cigarettes in public places, but it would also ban the sale to minors.
Because the products and industry are fairly new, there isn't much known about their effects and there is virtually no regulation.
The unknown is at the center of the arguments on both sides of Monday's debate.
"We do know that the (Centers for Disease Control) has found that the vapor that is put off, which we used to think was just water vapor, actually contains heavy metals and toxins and carcinogens, so that's enough to make us as health organizations concerned," said Janelle Walldock, Director at Blue Cross Blue Shield.
"The reason cigarettes are banned in public places in Minnesota is because they have a second-hand smoke component. We have tons of scientific studies that show that (e-cigarettes) don't have that component," said Jim Ranes, of MN Vapors Advocacy.
Mankato has voted to ban e-cigarettes in public places and they cannot be used on Metro Transit or on Hennepin County Property.
The bill will now move on to the Senate Judiciary committee.