Allegheny County bans indoor vaping in public places |

Allegheny County bans indoor vaping in public places

Theresa Clift

E-cigarettes soon will be banned everywhere regular cigarettes are banned in Allegheny County, county council decided Tuesday.

Allegheny County becomes the second county in the state to do so.

The vote was 8-5 down party lines, with eight Democrats voting in favor of the ban and all five Republicans voting against. Two councilmen recused themselves.

The ban, which has been in the works since May, will go in to effect as soon as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signs it.

As a result, vaping will no longer be allowed in indoor workplaces, schools, restaurants, health care-related properties, theaters, sports facilities and transit stations.

Prior to the vote, about 20 people gave public comments about the legislation, the majority of whom urging council to adopt the ban. That was somewhat of a shift from previous meetings on the topic.

Those who support the ban, including several UPMC doctors, say the vapor could be as dangerous as cigarette smoke when inhaled secondhand, could “re-normalize” cigarette smoking and can be a “starter cigarette” for teens.

Vape shop owners and those against the ban argued vaping is the most effective way to quit smoking, should not be demonized, and the vapor contains no dangerous toxins when inhaled secondhand.

Councilman Sam DeMarco, a Republican elected at large, questioned whether Allegheny County has the legal authority to institute the ban, or whether it would be preempted by the Clean Indoor Air Act.

Commonwealth Court halted the county's smoking ban in 2007 just hours after it took effect. Later that year, the court issued a final ruling striking down the county ban. The General Assembly passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in public places, in 2008.

“In my opinion, this would be an unprecedented expansion of the Clean Indoor Air Act by regulating e-cigarettes under this, and I believe it would be illegal and struck down in court,” DeMarco said Tuesday. The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association raised the same concerns.

The only municipality in the state with a vaping ban is Philadelphia, which since 2014 has banned vaping in the “vast majority” of places where smoking is banned, said Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman.

Philadelphia is the state's only First Class county, however, which gives it certain privileges when it comes to enacting legislation.

Allegheny County Solicitor Andrew Szefi said the county does have the legal authority to enact the ban, because vaping is not covered in the Clean Indoor Air Act.

“We have vetted this thoroughly, and we are quite comfortable this ordinance would survive a legal challenge,” said Szefi.

Fitzgerald, county Health Department Director Karen Hacker and the Board of Health endorsed the legislation.

“I am proud that Allegheny County continues to focus on protecting our public health and ensuring that our community is one where quality of life is important,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids issued a joint statement praising the ban's passage.

The vote

Voting for the ban were Democratic members DeWitt Walton, Denise Renalli-Russell, John Palmiere, Charles Martoni, Bob Macey, Paul Klein, James Ellenbogen and Pat Catena.

Voting against were Republican council members DeMarco, Sue Means, Ed Kress, Cindy Kirk and Tom Baker.

Council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler and Vice President Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, recused themselves from the vote.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at [email protected]. Staff reporter Bob Bauder contributed to this report.

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