Everything you should know about the anti-vaping law in Baltimore

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In November 2014 Baltimore’s City Council approved the Bill 14-0371. They voted to ban vaping in public places. The exception was made for bars and restaurants that decide to allow the use of an electronic cigarette or vaporizer in their establishments. The dispute on this matter continues till nowadays.

Let’s begin with a few words about the bill’s origin. James Kraft, a member of the Baltimore City Council and the chairman of the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee put it like that.

He took his granddaughter to the Baltimore Orioles’ opening day game. There he caught sights of “smoke going up” from people seated nearby. It turned out that the fans were vaping — using battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into an e vapor that can be inhaled.

Kraft discussed it with an usher who shared his discontent with this new phenomenon as “confrontations” with vapers who “got a little testy” do happen sometimes.

Kraft also looked at it from the standpoint of a grandfather. When young children see smoking people everywhere they go, they take it as a norm.

The implementation of non-smoking laws was rather confusing since it is not easy to tell at once whether it is vapor or tobacco smoke. Kraft understood that Baltimore needed some rules. That’s why he introduced Council Bill 14-0371.

Public hearings on the bill mirrored the ongoing global debate about whether vaping is a public-health wonder or a public-health threat. A dozen of people testified.

In general, the need to regulate a booming vape market is accepted worldwide. Vaping is viewed negatively by many officials. And their main argument is a little research on this issue and a lack of data on its potential health effects.

In some countries vaping is considered illegal or is heavily restricted. The US is one of the most vaping friendly countries. Nevertheless, more and more cities ban trendy e cigs wherever smoking is prohibited.

Sandra Baker, the executive secretary of the Environmental Control Board (ECB), considers that “the health risks, as well as benefits” are still unknown”.  Thus, the ECB supports the prohibition of vaping “until more information is available.”

The advocates of loyal regulation point to the harm reduction, which is also not deeply studied. They also emphasize the fact that a lot of traditional smokers who switched to vaping managed to quit tobacco.  The recent constant decrease in regular cigarette use can’t be denied.

Several ex-smokers testified at the hearing. They told that they’d used vaping products to give up smoking after other smoking-cessation methods hadn’t helped them.

James Conte, for example, introduced himself as a former passionate smoker who dropped the habit 20 months ago. He has already removed nicotine in the flavoring liquids he uses. Conte had his blood tested, and no toxins or heavy metals were found in it. He added that no one had explained to him how it can cause second-hand harm to anyone.

He challenged the Council asking “how do you know that there’s nicotine in it?” Really, there’s a broad range of nicotine-free e-liquids on the market. Some of them are popular with sportsmen.

Yes, there’s still a lot we don’t know about these smoking devices. The manufacturers make a collective claim that they are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.

Tobacco products are made with tobacco leaf. When a smoker burns it in a traditional cigarette or cigar, a toxic mixture of chemicals gets into the air and lungs. There are about 4000 different types of chemicals, at least 43 of them are cancer causing.

We cannot call an e-cig a completely safe smoking device. Some researchers do find harmful toxins in vapor. But their amount is drastically small when compared to a tobacco product. That’s the key reason why long-term smokers make up their mind to switch to vaping.

Another argument weighted in the bill’s favor. Teenagers begin to experiment with e-cigarettes.

The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2013 that 6.8% of children in grades 6-12 had tried vaping. The flavorings come in tastes that are appealing to children. For example, strawberry, chocolate, or bubble gum.

No doubt, the device has shown its effectiveness as a smoking cessation method. But the opponents are afraid that it might cause a new generation of smokers.  A study published in American Medical Association found out that middle and high school students who smoked e-cigarettes were more likely to try tobacco cigarettes than their non-vaping peers.

So, the ban was approved. But it raised some questions.

The council’s legislation aims at banning public vaping. But does it really do it?

Bars and restaurants reserve their right to decide the issue for themselves. They only have to post conspicuous signs on the premises and warm patrons in menus.

And Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino makes another exception from the rule. Along with being Baltimore’s only business to hold a 24-hour liquor license, it is now the entertainment, sports or hospitality facility freed from the pending ban on e-cigarettes. So, what’s the point?

Vaping community could not help but react to the ban. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, believes that entrepreneurs have the right to allow or prohibit vaping in their establishments. He wrote that “e-cigarettes have not been shown to pose any appreciable risk to bystanders”.

Conley is disappointed by the Baltimore’s Council intention to ban e-cigarette use in workplaces. He says that these prohibitions are caused by “hype and conjecture, not sound scientific evidence”.

The American Vaping Association advises Baltimore health authorities to embrace vaping as a workable alternative for adult smokers instead of making it more difficult for them to switch.

Ultimately, such things as vaping bans should be best considered at the state level. Baltimore’s anti-vaping law treads the road to for a ban in the whole state. Given that the city is the first jurisdiction in the state of Maryland to pass e-cigarette restrictions, it needs to do that right.


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