Lawmakers are inching closer to passing a ban on vaping devices at Denver’s 16th Street Mall in Colorado, despite ongoing problems over public marijuana use.
A committee of the Denver City Council will hold a hearing Wednesday on the proposal, which lumps vaping in with traditional combustible cigarettes. City Council President Albus Brooks is dubbing the effort the “breathe easy” campaign and says he is confident there is wide support for the measure in the chamber and among residents of the city, reports FOX 31.
Brooks argues letting vapers use their devices in the public setting is not fair to the roughly 40,000 people who use the popular outdoor mall each day. 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 is a health issue,” Brooks told FOX 31. “We’re tired of it. It’s part of a plan to transform the mall, to make it a clean and healthy place where we can have more individuals be in the city of Denver.”
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 in September.
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.
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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