Howard County proposes restrictions on e-cigarettes

UPDATE 10:30 a.m. 8/3/2015: The Howard County Council unanimously passed the proposed ban.

EARLIER: WASHINGTON — Another D.C.-area locality is deciding whether e-cigarettes should be treated like tobacco products.

Howard County is considering a proposal to ban vaping in places smoking is not allowed, similar to a law recently passed in Montgomery County.

The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network supports the proposal. The American Vaping Association supports some regulation — “There’s no reason to sell these products to anyone under the age of 18,” says AVA president Gregory Conley – but says the county’s focus should be on tobacco.

“You probably have 18 percent of adults in Howard County smoking,” Conley says, “so let’s invest in ways to help them quit.”

Continuing to allow vaping in places smoking has been banned would be a step back, says Bonita Pennino with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“The devices keep people smoking rather than quit – which is reversing the efforts we’ve made over the years to make smoking socially unacceptable,” Pennino says.

The groups also are divided on the issue of whether e-cigarettes pose any risk from secondhand exposure.

“We don’t know what chemicals are in electronic cigarettes,” Pennino says. Conley says the tiny and trace levels of chemicals that e-cigarettes do contain are not harmful to bystanders.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network expressed a similar sentiment.

“ACS CAN has significant concerns about the potential public health effects of e-cigarettes. E‐cigarette emissions may contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. A growing number of studies have examined the contents of e‐cigarette aerosol,” the agency said in a news release.

A bill to regulate e-cigarettes is being considered by a Prince George’s County Council committee. In the District, Council member Yvette Alexander may propose a similar measure.

The American Vaping Association believes restricting e-cigs will prove costly.

“We as a society we should want to incentivize in some way switching from a product that causes 400,000 deaths a year and puts massive pressure on our medical system, to a smoke-free and tobacco-free product,” he says.

“If you want to use this device, do what everyone else is doing that smokes cigarettes — step outside,” Pennino says.

The Howard County Council vote on e-cigarettes could happen Friday.

Howard County e-cigarette proposal

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