The St. Joseph City Council will soon be voting on whether or not to prohibit vaping or e-cigarette use in indoor public places, a ban that was already in place years ago and was lifted due to state law.
The ordinance, which will be on the council’s agenda for a vote at their Oct. 21 meeting, would make it against municipal law to use electronic nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes, vape pens and any other form of vaporizer, inside of a public place.
In 2014, citizens approved Clean Air St. Joe, an act that banned smoking and vaping in indoor public places. In 2016, vaping was removed from the citywide smoking ban by the city council due to a state rule that doesn’t allow e-cigs and vape products to be regulated in the same way as tobacco. E-cigs were included in the definition of tobacco for Clean Air St. Joe.
Now, an ordinance drafted by the St. Joseph Health Department asks for vaping to be banned indoors in a separate ordinance, which would not conflict with the state law.
The ordinance, signed by Director of Health Debra Bradley, stresses the health risks and recent reports of lung injury and even death attributed to vaping. It states, “this will help ensure that both identified and currently-unidentified secondhand effects of vapor products are mitigated.”
Mayor Bill McMurray, who sponsored the ordinance, said the recent deaths and illnesses covered in the media have been a factor in deciding to prohibit indoor vaping now.
“We know more about vaping than we did three years ago,” McMurray said. “Maybe it’s not as innocuous as we thought.”
He said he does not consider himself an “anti-smoking crusader” and enjoys an occasional cigar, but new information on vaping is important to consider in order to avoid dangers to public health.
According to information in the ordinance, 530 cases of lung injury attributed to vaping were reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory as of Sept. 19 of this year. Seven deaths were confirmed in six states.
Council member Brian Myers, who owns a bar in Downtown St. Joseph, said that he has let people occasionally vape inside his bar since the ban was removed, but only when there aren’t many people around due to the odor different vaping liquids can release.
He said it is the duty of the council to ban indoor vaping in public places, since the public voted for that in 2014.
“The people of St. Joseph voted, I believe it was 53 percent, to ban e-cigarettes, vaping and tobacco products indoors,” Myers said. “We have an obligation to uphold the will of the people and in this case, this is what the people wanted.”
He said he will not let people vape in his bar if this ordinance passes.