A new ban on electronic cigarettes is taking effect Monday in Texas that uses smoking arguments about the alleged dangers of vapor to further restrict the practice.
The Austin City Council voted June 22 to pass the legislation, which expands a city ordinance from 2005 restricting the sale and use of cigarettes in public, including parks and bars. Vaping devices, which use liquid nicotine, are now labeled as tobacco products under the expanded definition, reports KXAN.
Public health officials argue that the ban is necessary because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Travis County, which includes Austin. Critics of harsh rhetoric against e-cigarettes point out that vaping reduces harm to smokers and those around them, and that it is a valuable tool for those trying to quit smoking and improve their health.
“I gave it a try and instantly fell in love with it,” Andrew Halaut, manager of vape shop Drip City, told KXAN. “I can run better, I can breathe better, I remember I would have constant chest pains when I was smoking cigarettes. I just feel like there should be more information given and less fear and less propaganda spread and more willing to learn and willing to understand that there is helpfulness to this, there is something that can work for this.”
Many medical professionals actually advise smokers to give the devices a try. A survey published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2016 found that 57.8 percent of practicing physicians recommend e-cigarettes to smokers trying to quit, although the push to cast public doubt on vaping may be impacting this number.
The Austin office of public health has been trying to work e-cigarettes into the 2005 smoking ordinance for the last year and a half. Officials argue that secondhand vapor may be polluting the air.
“We don’t know what kinds of chemicals are in vape and whether or not it’s safe and so we want to make sure that everybody has the right to breathe vape-free air and have their lungs protected,” Christie Garbe, vice president and chief strategy officer for Austin Central Health, said in June.
Democratic lawmakers in New York passed a similar ban to the one in Austin June 19, amending New York’s Indoor Clean Air Act to include e-cigarettes.
The legislation expands the state ban on vaping in certain areas to include restaurants, bars, offices and any other public, indoor space. Vaping advocates are slamming state Democrats over the bill, which they argue will dissuade adult smokers from using the devices to quit.
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