Monday, December 01, 2014

Boulder City Council Considering Legislation to Ban Vaping in Wide-Open Outdoor Areas

The Boulder (Colorado) City Council is considering legislation that would extend the city's smoking ban to include parks and open spaces and ban vaping in all the places where smoking is banned. Thus, the ordinance would ban vaping in all parks and open spaces. Specifically, vaping would be banned in the following outdoor areas:
  • the downtown business improvement district;
  • all parks and parkland;
  • all open spaces and mountain parks property; and
  • on any trail or multi-use path.
What is the city's justification for considering a ban on vaping in these wide-open outdoor areas? What is the evidence the city presents to justify such a draconian measure?

If you read the city's fact sheet on electronic cigarettes, you'll find out that the city does not name a single health problem that has been shown to be caused by exposure to "secondhand vapor." Instead, the worst thing that the city health department can say about secondhand vaping is this:

"ENDS [electronic cigarettes] aerosol has consistently been demonstrated to contain more than water."

The Rest of the Story

When the worst thing that can be said about the potential public health hazard of exposure to exhaled e-cigarette aerosol is that the aerosol has been shown to contain more than water, you know that you are dealing with a flimsy justification for this proposed policy.

This is truly a draconian policy. There is no scientific justification for banning smoking in wide-open outdoor spaces; there is absolutely no scientific justification for banning vaping in these places. It isn't even clear whether vaping indoors poses any significant hazards to the public. Certainly, vaping outdoors poses no substantial public health risks.

Beyond the lack of any public health justification for this vaping ban, the policy is flawed because it would likely discourage many smokers from quitting smoking via electronic cigarettes. It might even encourage some vapers to return to cigarette smoking. It is possible, then, that this policy could have negative net public health benefits.

Hopefully, the Boulder City Council will choose not to include vaping in this expanded smoking ordinance.

Disclosure: I have not received any funding or compensation from the tobacco, electronic cigarette, or pharmaceutical industries. However, I am seeking funding from several electronic cigarette companies to conduct a behavioral study on the effects of electronic cigarettes on smoking behavior. 

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