A lawmaker is proposing a blanket ban on cigarettes and vaping devices at Denver’s 16th Street Mall, claiming that “it’s all smoking.”
City Council President Albus Brooks is pushing what he dubs the “Breathe Easy” campaign to rid the popular outdoor destination of any smoke or nicotine vapor, arguing it’s not fair to the roughly 40,000 people who use the mall each day. Brooks also claims that e-cigarettes are no different than traditional tobacco, despite containing only nicotine, reports CBS Denver.
The proposal virtually ignores the prevailing science on vaping that shows it carries a fraction of the risk of smoking and is helping reduce the smoking rate in America to historic lows.
“This year it just came to a head because we had so many residents saying this is a concern, and we don’t feel like you’re hearing us,” Brooks said Monday, according to CBS Denver. “Whether it’s vaping, whether it’s e-cigarettes, whether that’s a cigarette, it’s all smoking.”
The proposal would make violations of the ban a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. Critics of the measure say they find it odd officials are taking such a strict stance towards vapor products in a state that legalized recreational marijuana use. Residents say public pot use is a major problem in the city that officials struggle to control.
“I just think in a state that legalizes marijuana that it’s kind of silly to ban smoking,” Ray Burch, a worker on the 16th Street Mall, told CBS Denver.
Vaping advocates note the products deliver nicotine to the user, not tobacco, reducing the harm to themselves and largely eliminating second hand risks. A growing body of medical evidence shows that vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently acknowledged the health benefits of e-cigarettes and is now encouraging smokers to transition to vaping to reduce their health risks.
Despite the positive research, localities across the country continue to try and restrict the products, relying on dated statistics or predetermined narratives about their alleged dangers. Researchers focused on harm reduction say efforts to misrepresent the health impacts of vaping risks undoing the progress made on improving public health and reducing the smoking rate.
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