Citywide indoor vaping ban approved

A man exhales from an electronic cigarette on Oct. 4 in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The St. Joseph Police Department said they struggle to enforce vaping and tobacco laws for selling to minors because of a lack of funding.

The St. Joseph City Council breezed through a unanimous vote on indoor vaping Monday night with little discussion from elected officials or the public.

Councilman Brian Myers, however, had one issue to bring up prior to the vote. “Am I still allowed to vape in the casino if this passes?” he asked

The answer was yes. We’re not sure if Myers asked out of personal interest or a desire to highlight discrepancies in the city’s indoor smoking policies. The casino exemption, a sort of realpolitik concession that’s difficult to justify, remains a sore spot for those who oppose a smoking ban.

But the council’s vote Monday night, while not changing the situation with the casino, does more to create a rational and sensible approach to the regulation of smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor public places. That hasn’t always been the case since the city first waded into the debate in 2014.

Sure, some distinctions exist between traditional cigarettes and the electronic variety that has become so popular among young people. We know more about the dangers of secondhand smoke and the carcinogens associated with lighting a combustible cigarette, rather than a vape product.

But e-cigarettes, which involve heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that’s inhaled into the lungs, bring their own dangers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory in August that recommended against using any e-cigarette and vape products, following a multistate outbreak of lung illnesses tied to vaping.

One of the key concerns surrounding vaping seems to be its capacity to allow for tinkering, with users adding extra nicotine or THC infusions that can make the habit more dangerous. With this uncertainty, many local health departments are starting to take a stronger position on regulation, following slow action on the state and federal levels.

Up until now, the electronic cigarette industry has played both sides of the fence, twisting arms on a regulatory and political level in order to be considered separate from traditional tobacco products. But companies like Juul and Blu aren’t shy about taking money from old-line tobacco firms that see an investment opportunity.

If these industries are joined to some degree financially, if they both dispense nicotine, if they both emit an odor that nonsmokers find repulsive, if they carry a potential to put people in the hospital, then maybe it’s reasonable to think that they should be regulated in a similar manner.

The St. Joseph City Council made the right call in its vote Monday night to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s indoor smoking ban.