Maryland’s Clean Indoor Air Act already bans cigarette smoking in public places. But now the state’s lawmakers aim to clear the air even more by banning the use of electronic cigarettes, as well.
Although electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are catching on as a trendy and purportedly safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes, many local and state agencies across the country are working to ban the devices’ use indoors in public places.
State Delegate Aruna Miller, D-Montgomery, is pushing for the current tobacco ban to also encompass electronic cigarettes and related vapor devices, despite claims that they carry far lower risk for negative health effects.
The practice known as vaping, or puffing on an electronic cigarette, is currently being studied by a variety of organizations to determine if the “vapor” they produce is hazardous, through either use or secondhand exposure.
Miller, who unsuccessfully pushed the bill to change the Act, cited the lack of approval and regulation from the Food and Drug Administration concerning the devices.
“We need to err on the side of public health until all the evidence comes out,” she said.
Although the devices emit vapor rather than smoke, the liquid solution they use is largely chemical. The mixture is made up of nicotine, flavoring, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin, the latter two of which create the vapor and carry flavor.
But opponents argue that the devices get an unfair reputation due to their association with nicotine and smoking.
“To categorically ban [electronic cigarettes] because you don’t like the word nicotine or smoke doesn’t mean you should ban it,” said Phil Briggs, an advertising consultant for 99.9 WFRE radio in Frederick.
The move would also limit options for ex-smokers, said Briggs, many of whom rely on such devices. E-cigarettes are currently legal to purchase by any Maryland residents over the age of 18.
Miller hopes the amendment will exempt smoke lounges and shops, which are mostly small businesses, to increase the chances of it passing. The Clean Indoor Air Act passed in Maryland in 2007 and prohibits smoking indoors in restaurants, bars, schools, athletic facilities, government buildings, and other public places.
Passing the act with the e-cigarette amendment would be a statewide measure applied evenly, which could increase or decrease the chances of it passing.
For instance, Baltimore began restricting the use of e-cigs in public places in November 2014, but restaurants and bars were able to opt out through a loophole and just post warning signs for customers.
So far only three states — New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah — have banned the use of vaping devices in public.