The Allegheny County vaping ban was approved in an 8 to 5 vote by the County Council. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is expected to sign the vape ban and it will officially go into effect on March 20, 2017. What does it mean? It means that vaping will not be allowed in public buildings, workplaces, bars, restaurants, and sporting venues. In other words, vapers will be marginalized and treated the same as smokers.
If you own a restaurant or bar and would like to allow vapers to fully enjoy your business, you will be out of luck. That is no longer your decision to make. The County is lumping vapers in with smokers citing supposed dangers from second hand vapor. But does this level of reach into the individual lives of citizens go too far? Bill Godshall points out that this law will “turn more than 30,000 Allegheny County vapers into criminals for vaping in their own workplace.”
Allegheny County is the second Pennsylvania county to enact such a ban. In 2014 Philadelphia enacted a similar electronic cigarette ban. Treating vapers as smokers is the default position of too many law makers and regulators. They tend to cherry pick controversial studies and ignore any study that concludes that vaping is safer.
Allegheny County Vape Ban
The arguments in the Allegheny Council as this vapor ban was debated were very civilized by all accounts. There were two major positions staked out. The councillors that supported the ban argued that vaping is a danger. They argued that second hand vapor represents a health threat. The councillors that opposed the ban argued that business owners have the right to determine how they operate their business.
The business freedom argument was used successfully last week in Arkansas by State Senator Scott Flippo. Senator Flippo led the charge and the proposed Arkansas public vape ban was defeated. The argument makes sense. From a purely base perspective of respect for personal freedom, telling business owners how they must conduct their operations seems out of line. A business should be able to serve vapers and members of the public wary of vaper can patronize another business. That’s a free society. So it is disappointing that the Allegheny council was unmoved by that argument.
The Real Harm Of Vaping Bans
There’s a bigger issue with the vape bans and arguments being made. The real harm is the demonization of vapor products. A point adroitly made by Allegheny Councillor Ed Kress. Mr. Kress said, “My concern is that we’re demonizing something that helps people.”
All across the US the perception of vaping is trending toward the negative. More and more people are equating vaping with smoking in terms of health risk. The litany of scary media stories and vapor bans is cementing the notion that vaping is the equivalent of smoking. As Mr. Kress points out, if a smoker perceives that vaping is just as bad as smoking, that perception is essentially a license to keep smoking without trying an alternative.
There are a couple of things to be considered here. If people do not want to be around vapor they should not have to be. Their perceptions may be wrong or they may have false data but that doesn’t matter. By the same token, a business that chooses to serve vapers should be allowed to. There is no need to make a spectacle of bans and demonize vapers or lump us in with smokers. We are not smokers.
The other thing going on is the demonization of vaping. If those who hold positions of trust and authority are really concerned about public health, they have to stop equating vaping with smoking. Smoking is certainly a health hazard. Reducing smoking and tobacco harm is a shared goal between public health officials and the vaping community. Yet, as a community, vapers are being painted as one of the bad guys. The missed opportunity to work with the vaping industry is not serving the best interests of public health.