Winning and Losing. Update on E-Cig Bans in Idaho, California and Georgia

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While the city of Boise, Idaho already has smoking bans in place, a proposed ordinance, if passed, could add new restrictions to state laws that already ban smoking in public areas like restaurants, elevators and bars.  However, while the new restrictions will prohibit smoking in areas such as workplaces, tobacco shops and businesses with separate smoking sections such as bowling alleys, the Mayor and City Council asked that electronic cigarettes be excluded from the proposed ordinance by providing a clear definition of what smoking is:

Smoking means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated  cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation in any  manner or in any form.  Smoking does not include the use of an e-cigarette which creates only a vapor without any smoke.”

On the other hand, electronic cigarettes users from the city of Macon, Georgia, face different challenges.  A proposed ordinance, not yet sent to the county council committee for discussion, aims at banning smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces while loosening some restrictions from an earlier version (presented in April) to allow smoking in public parks except near playgrounds and crowded seating areas. The previous version presented drew a mayoral veto in May as revisions were needed.  However, to the dismay of many electronic-cigarette users, in the new text, the city council has decided to label the use of electronic cigarettes as smoking, hence, including them in the proposed smoking ban.  As per the ordinance text,

smoking means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated tobacco product intended for inhalation, or in any manner or in any form. Smoking also includes the use of an e-cigarette that created a vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking.

Concord, California, finds itself in a similar situation as Macon. The city currently has smoking restrictions which prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants, city parks and workplaces. A proposed amendment, if passed, would restrict smoking on sidewalks and other public areas, mostly commercial blocks in downtown Concord, in a 17-block area around Todos Santos Plaza. Smoking would also be banned on private property accessible to the general public.  As evidenced by the amendment text, electronic cigarettes are to be included in the ban as part of smoking.

“Smoking is the carrying or holding of a lighted pipe, a lighted hookah pipe, an operating electronic cigarette, a lighted cigar or cigarette of any kind, or any other lighted smoking equipment, or the lighting, emitting, or exhaling the smoke of a pipe, cigar, or cigarette, or electronic cigarette of any kind.

While we see that the support for electronic cigarettes has helped yield significant victories such as that of Boise, Idaho, where city officials were willing to exclude electronic cigarettes from smoking bans, we also see that perhaps because of a lack of information or education on the subject, other places are quick jump the gun and label e-cigs as unsafe products with little to no information to support such claims. In fact, during public meetings for the discussion of the proposed ordinances, supporters are often present to voice their opinion.  Deryl Dantzler, a professor at Mercer University’s law school, said she wouldn’t offer her opinion on the ordinance as a whole — but she asked for electronic cigarettes to be exempted. They don’t emit smoke but deliver a dose of nicotine.

She said she smoked for more than 50 years and couldn’t quit until she found e-cigarettes. “If we’re concerned about smoke, we should also be concerned about the people who are trying to quit smoking,” Dantzler said. When she’d previously asked why e-cigarettes were not exempt, she was just told it was an “enforcement issue” because they resemble real cigarettes, she said. Dantzler held up several different e-cigarettes to show that many don’t look like cigarettes at all.

We urge all supporters of electronic cigarettes to do the same and speak out in Concord and Macon. There is still time to get your voice heard before these proposed bans are voted into law!