Health Activists Urge E-Cigarette Ban To Protect ‘Clean Air’

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Health officials are recommending a ban on using electronic cigarettes in Louisville, Ky., arguing the devices pose a threat to the city’s “clean air standards.”

City regulators are folding to persistent recommendations from groups like the American Heart Association and American Lung Association, which have been lobbying states across the country for months to crack down on vaping. A 77-page document sent to the mayor of Louisville Nov. 30 from the various health groups claims the vapor exhaled by e-cigarette users is a threat to air quality and presents second-hand hazards to those exposed, reports Courier Journal.

This is prompting the Louisville Health Department to move forward with recommendations to the city council to relegate their use to areas where smoking is allowed, reports Courier Journal. They also want to include indoor hookah smoking in the ban.

“Support is mounting to restrict the use of electronic cigarettes and hookah in indoor public settings in the best interest of the public’s health,” read the letter to Mayor Greg Fischer, according to Courier Journal. “Act to protect Louisville Metro’s clean air standards, protect against secondhand exposure to harmful chemicals, and improve enforcement efforts.”

Vape shop owners acknowledged users should not be walking into crowded movie theaters blowing plumes of vapor into the air, but argue these measures will cripple vape, and hookah businesses. The health department says they aren’t advocating for the closure of vape shops or hookah bars, but simply a ban on using the products in indoor public spaces.

The department is also trying to amend how it defines smoking, in an attempt to permanently ban the use of marijuana and hookah. The new definition would also apply to e-cigarettes and “the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking.”

Vaping activists in the state fear this will gut local businesses.

“We employ a lot of people in the city and across the state,” Keith Hadley, co-founder of the Kentucky Smoke Free Association, told Courier Journal. “These aren’t businesses that are owned by huge corporations. Most of them are locally owned, mom-and-pop shops.”

There are similar efforts underway in cities and states across the country and many health experts are critical of government officials for ignoring the device’s utility in helping smokers quit and improving overall public health. A survey published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year found 57.8 percent of practicing physicians recommend e-cigarettes to smokers trying to quit.

The United Kingdom actually promotes the sale of e-cigarettes as a health-conscious alternative to smoking. A study found nearly all of the 2.6 million e-cigarette users in the U.K. are former or current smokers — many of whom are using the device to quit.

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