by Steve Birr
Lawmakers in a Pennsylvania county are gearing up for a vote to squash electronic cigarettes and treat the devices like traditional tobacco.
The Allegheny County Council will vote as early as Tuesday on new regulations governing vaping. It would ban the devices in any school, workplace, sports stadium, government building, bus, cab or any other public indoor space. The new law will essentially relegate use of e-cigarettes to areas where traditional smoking is allowed, reports Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The measure already passed a unanimous six to zero vote in the Allegheny County Board of Health. Officials cite possible dangers of second-hand exposure to the water vapor exhaled by an e-cigarette smoker.
“I don’t think the evidence is there that this e-vaping is actually dangerous to third parties,” Ed Kress, a county council member, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We are hurting people who are trying to help themselves.”
The law does include some exceptions, such as vaping in bars, tobacco shops and vaping shops. Health officials maintain their claim that the choice to vape can negatively impact the health of others.
“Our basic message is, if you want to use vapes to stop smoking, that’s good for you,” Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the county’s Health Department, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “But the issue here is not what you choose to do but the impact of what you choose on others.”
Localities are following the U.S. surgeon general and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead, who warn e-cigarettes are a major public health concern. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently suggested vaping could serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking for teens, and that e-cigarette use among America’s youth is rapidly creating a public health crisis.
Many health experts took issue with the surgeon general report, criticizing government officials for ignoring the positive impact vaping has on current smokers. They argue promoting vaping over traditional tobacco aids public health, while harsh regulations make smokers less likely to use the device to quit.
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