Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guns, Sugar, and Vapes

With another pull from the "it's legal to do that here?" vault, Council-member Jon Weinstein has filed CB28-2015, a bill that would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes (i.e., vaping) inside public spaces (with some exceptions).  This bill is co-sponsored by Council-members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa.  As such, this piece of legislation was introduced with a presumption of passage through the Council.

The bill explicitly invokes Howard County's leadership in the 2006 anti-smoking legislation that prohibited smoking indoors (seems like ages ago).  I will always remember this law as being the fatal blow for Michael's Pub in King's Contrivance, which had spent $200,000 to create a separately enclosed smoking area in accordance with state law only to see Howard County law change to make that expenditure little more than fancy air conditioning.

The law also notes that vaping is more than a benign hobby for the hipsters among us.  E-cigarette use has doubled every year since 2010, culminating in a $1.5 billion industry.  This use is primarily concentrated among teens:

For the most part, e-cigarettes are "safer" than regular tobacco burning cigarettes, but I suppose that depends on how you define safe.  Same nasty chemicals, just less.

It's a good thing that public health advocates already know where to testify after the Nutritional Standards bill, because I imagine this will be yet another fight.  Had this bill been filed in January, I think just about any level-headed Howard Countian would have said "Yeah, I don't know about this vaping stuff indoors", but unfortunately it was not filed in January.  This bill carries with it the legacy of the gun ban and pending Nutritional Standards bill.

And unlike the Nutritional Standards bill, there are no choices here.  If you want to use an e-cigarette indoors, this bill will prohibit you from doing so.  It will also require you to step at least 15 feet away from all public buildings should you use your e-cigarette outside.  You'll have to stand with the smokers...the "real" smokers.

County Executive Allan Kittleman will have plenty of time to determine his response on this.  There is little question the bill will pass and he likely won't be caught requesting an exception that never comes through, as he did with the gun ban.  He has been, rightfully, judicious with his veto, keeping it in the holster for the first five months, but these 3-2 votes (presuming no other votes can be secured) will be mighty tempting.  The County Executive has made no secret of his libertarian philosophy, giving the impression that he believes that philosophy is quietly shared by the majority of Howard County voters.

It is apparent that the Council disagrees.

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!