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City Tightens Grip Over Vapers With ‘Unreasonable’ Public Ban

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A Kentucky city’s lawmakers are banning smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces including parks, trails and sports arenas.

The city commission in Paducah, Kentucky, voted 4 to 1 Tuesday in favor of the restrictions, which critics are blasting as government overreach into adults’s choices. The ban, which is leaving residents in the city somewhat divided, amends Paducah’s smoking ordinance to prohibit smoking and vaping in all public spaces the city controls, WPSD reported.

The measure is too extreme, amounting to a punishment of smokers, Commissioner Richard Abraham, who voted against the amendment, said. Abraham, who is not a smoker, proposed a revised version of the ban allowing vaping and smoking at walking trails, golf courses and shelters.

“OK. You can’t smoke on playgrounds, wellness parks, health parks and those designated areas, and that’s fine,” Abraham said Tuesday, according to WPSD. “But you’re telling me I can’t light up 200 yards away from that designated area. That seems unreasonable to me.”

Violators of the ban are subject to up to $50 fines.

At the state level, vapers face the prospect of a massive new tax on their products. State Republicans unveiled a revenue bill April 2 that brings vapor products under the state’s definition of tobacco, despite containing only nicotine, which will allow Kentucky to tax e-cigarettes at a rate of 15 percent.

The tax plan, which the liberal Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and conservative Americans for Prosperity vehemently oppose, fails to acknowledge the vastly different health profile of vapor products compared to cigarettes.

Public health advocates focused on harm reduction argue taxes should be structured to differentiate between the risks of combustible cigarettes and alternative products to steer smokers to safer methods of nicotine delivery.

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