Lawmakers in a Maryland city enacted strict restrictions on using electronic cigarettes that critics say violate residents’ personal freedom.
The Salisbury City Council voted Monday in favor of a new ordinance banning smoking and vaping on any publicly owned outdoor land, including public parks, trail ways, picnic areas and other outdoor recreation areas. It also bans individuals from vaping within 25 feet of any of these areas, even if they are inside their car, reports WBOC.
Salisbury Mayor Jake Day says the ordinance is necessary to cut down on secondhand exposure to smoke, but fails to differentiate smoke produced by combustible tobacco with the vapor released by e-cigarettes. Vapers in the city are ripping the new rules, arguing they infringe on the personal liberties of residents.
“I don’t see how they can enforce it as much as they want to,” Debbie Walston, a resident of the city, told WBOC. “If you’re in a wide-open space, and I’m sitting in my car here vaping, I honestly don’t see a reason why I should be approached saying you need to stop that.”
Penalties for violating the ban include a $500 fine, which rises to $1,000 for every repeat offense. People caught vaping may also face 12 hours of community service, which is extended to 48 hours for every repeat offense.
Vaping advocates note that the products deliver nicotine to the user, not tobacco, reducing the harm to themselves and largely eliminating secondhand 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.
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