Vaping ban argued before Allegheny County Council committee
More than 30 people spoke to the pros and cons of Allegheny County’s proposed ban on vaping in public places during a public hearing Monday night.
Those against the proposed ban argued that vaping helps smokers quit, that many businesses already ban it, and forcing vapers outside with the smokers sends the wrong public message — one that could push them to go back to smoking.
Those in favor of vacating the vapers in public places argued that use of e-cigarettes can be a “gateway” for teens to pick up smoking the real thing, and that the vapor, although better than cigarette smoke, is not harmless when consumed secondhand.
Panelists received five minutes each for comments, while the more than 20 members of the public who signed up received three minutes each.
Speakers on both sides cited studies to support their argument.
Those who support the ban cited a report released last year by the Surgeon General that found e-cigarettes — now the most commonly used tobacco product among teens — are a public health concern for teens and pregnant women.
Some of those opposed to it cited a study released this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine that, among other findings, reported long-term e-cigarette users have “substantially reduced levels of measured carcinogens and toxins relative to smoking only combustile cigarettes.”
The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association sent a letter to the council last month questioning whether the county had the legal authority to institute the ban, or whether it would have to be done at the state level, due to the Clean Indoor Air Act’s preemption clause.
County Solicitor Andrew Szefi said he is confident the legislation being proposed is not preempted by the act, or any state law.
Councilman Ed Kress said he is concerned the state code on medical marijuana, which can be vaped, would be in conflict with the proposed legislation.
“I don’t want to penalize anybody trying to take their medicine in a public place,” said Kress, who opposes the ban.
Szefi said Kress shouldn’t let that “stand in the way” of supporting the ban.
“It’s not the point of the legislation or the Clean Indoor Air Act,” said Szefi.
The council’s Health and Human Services Committee, which held the hearing, will consider the proposal at a future meeting, and could send it for consideration by the full council.
Panelists opposed to the vaping ban included: Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association; Marc Conn, owner of Steel City Vapors; Saul Shiffman, research professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Joel Nitzkin, health policy consultant and past co-chair of Tobacco Control Task Force of the American Association of Public Health Physicians.
Panelists in favor of the ban included: Deborah Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic; Dr. Jonathan Spahr, clinical director for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s division of pediatric pulmonary medicine; Dr. Elizabeth Miller, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s division of adolescent and young adult medicine chief; and Brittany Huffman, program coordinator for Tobacco Free Allegheny.