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Bill to treat e-cigarettes like standard smokes moves forward

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Smoking e-cigarette
This Nov. 26, 2013 photo shows Jesse Forsblade, left, and Mark Bartholomew smoking and drinking coffee at the Smokeless Smoking electronic cigarette store in Woodbury, Minn.
Chris Polydoroff/St. Paul Pioneer Press/AP, file

A committee in the Minnesota Senate has approved a bill that would forbid people from using e-cigarettes indoors and prohibit the sale of electronic delivery devices to people under the age of 18.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee approved the measure on an 8-5 vote. Supporters say they worry that the secondary health effects from vapor emitted from e-cigarettes could be harmful to others.

State Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Manakto, said e-cigarettes should fall under the same rules as smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"We do know that in this bill, we don't ask those who want to use this to give it up or not be able to purchase it if they're adults but to simply restict that use in the places where we restrict smoking," Sheran said.

Critics say there are no scientific studies that show the vapors are harmful and that the law would also be difficult to enforce.

  "This is blind regulation. There is no scientific basis for this interaction and anybody who values sort of any basic common notion of freedom really should reject this bill," said state Sen. Brandon Petersen, R-Andover.

The bill will make several more committee stops before the full Senate votes on it.