Austin, Texas is banning vaping everywhere that smoking is banned. That includes parks, restaurants, bars, government buildings, any public spaces. In a unanimous vote, Austin of 11 yeas and 0 nays, council passed the resolution. Just as with most vaping bans, the local vaping community was not consulted for input. Once again lawmakers show an inability to make the distinction between smoking and vaping.
In fact, this vote was held without any discussion or debate. Council members simply decided to add e-cigarettes to the existing regulations regarding smoking. With that the Austin vaping ban became law. Anti-vaping lobbyists were present wearing “Austin Breathes Vape Free Air” t-shirts. A spokesman for the anti-vaping group said that e-cigarette vapor contains harmful particles. “We refer to it as aerosol, not vapor, that comes out of those,” he said. Oh, well they call it aerosol so they must have a scientifically valid rationale. Really?
No one should have to be around vapor if it makes them uncomfortable. No one would argue that. But it is the issue of conflating smoking with vaping that is dangerous. Relegating vapor into the same category as smoke is to convey to smokers that there is no difference so they might as well keep smoking. Charlie Hodge of TEVA, the Texas E-Cigarette and Vaping association said that the Austin vaping ban is early because it encourages smokers not to quit. Hodge went on to say that e-cigarettes are a “harm reduction device if there’s ever been one”.
It is also dangerous to democracy to limit debate, limit perspective and not consider the viewpoint of stakeholders. Ignoring the Austin vaping community is a mistake. Council is not getting a complete picture. Nor did they communicate with local business owners or allow them the option of permitting vaping in their place of business. Essentially, Austin City council mandated that they limit their clientele.
Note to Austin city council. Debate is a healthy thing. Learn about vaping before making a surface judgment. And think about the message you convey to smokers. We all want tobacco harm reduction.