Updated 7:20 p.m. | Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., will back a move to restrict the use of electronic cigarettes on Capitol grounds by treating them like more traditional cigarettes.
"Chairman Schumer has no objection to incorporating e-cigarettes into the Senate smoking policies, and will work with the Rules Committee Republicans to amend the regulations accordingly," Schumer spokesman Matt House said in a statement.
The news comes in response to a letter from a group of Democrats led by Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., seeking the policy change as part of an ongoing fight against "e-cigs."
Durbin led six other Democrats in writing to the leaders of the Rules and Administration Committee Tuesday seeking to apply existing rules about smoking to the new "e-cigs" — that would mean no smoking in public places or within 25 feet of an entrance.
"The Senate has a long-standing restriction on smoking within public spaces in order to protect the public against the harmful health impacts of second hand smoke. Given preliminary FDA research finding harmful chemicals present in e-cigarettes, measures should be taken to ensure that the public is equally protected from the potential dangers posed by e-cigarettes and their vapor," the lawmakers wrote. "In the absence of evidence demonstrating the safety of e-cigarettes, particularly for individuals exposed to their vapor, we ask the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration to include e-cigarettes in the existing prohibition on smoking."
Joining Durbin in the effort were Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Barbara Boxer of California and Tom Harkin of Iowa in sending the letter, along with California Rep. Henry Waxman, who is pursuing a ban on the House side of the Capitol.
Durbin's D.C. roommate and no. 3 Democratic leader Schumer serves as chairman of the Rules panel.
Durbin previously led an effort criticizing the organizer and broadcaster of the Golden Globe awards for allowing e-cigarettes to be displayed on camera at this year's award ceremony, at one point saying actors like Leonardo DiCaprio were "killing" their fans by puffing on them. Last week, Harkin told reporters that questions about electronic cigarettes were among his priorities for the Food and Drug administration during his final year in the Senate, where he serves as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.