Allegheny County Council to vote on proposed vaping ban

Allegheny County Council to vote on proposed vaping ban

Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, March 1, 2017/Categories: Pittsburgh

A divided Allegheny County Council Health and Human Services Committee voted Wednesday evening to send a proposal banning indoor vaping to the full council for full consideration under a neutral recommendation.
The proposal would prohibit vaping and e-cigarettes everywhere traditional cigarette smoking is not allowed, including health care-related properties, indoor workplaces, restaurants, schools, sports facilities, and transit stations. The proposal was crafted and recommended by the county health department in fall 2016.
After motions to table and to send the proposal to the full council under a positive recommendation tied 4-4, a motion to send the proposal under a neutral recommendation was finally passed 6-2. 
“I would have preferred that it was [passed out of committee] with an affirmative recommendation, however its going to go as a neutral recommendation and I’m fine with that- it will give my colleagues a chance to vote on it properly this coming Tuesday,” said Chairman of the committee John Palmiere. 
Councilwoman Sue Means (District 5), one of the negative votes on the neutral recommendation believes the proof is not quite there to say the effects of second-hand vape smoke are harmful. 
“The burden of proof, to me, has not been proven,” she said. “I am OK with limiting people from vaping whenever they’re preparing food or on public transportation, but it just hasn’t been proven to me that it’s harmful second hand, and I do think the legislation is very flawed.” 
More specifically, she, along with At Large Council Representative Sam DeMarco, finds the flaws to be under the penalties that can be acquired if an individual is caught vaping in a banned public place. 
“We all recognize how difficult it is for people to quit smoking, how addicted people get to nicotine,” said DeMarco. “So what we’ve done is set penalties on these folks and said 'Hey, the first time you get caught it’s $250, second time it’s $500, third time it’s $1,000.' Here’s somebody who wants to inhale a legal, legitimate substance and we’re going to [criminalize] them.” 
Karen Hacker, Director of the Allegheny County Health Department interjected and said the penalties are the same criminal offenses stated under the state Clean Indoor Air Act for traditional smoking, and it wouldn’t be the individual being charged for vaping in a public place, but the public place itself in which the act was taking place.  
“Tell me if you’ve ever heard of anyone paying those fines," said Hacker. “This really relies, very heavily, on pubic sentiment and public sentiment says ‘we really don’t want you doing it here.'” 
DeMarco, along with other members of the committee were displeased that those factors aren’t clearly stated in the legislation. 

“I have a lot of issues with this legislation,” said Councilwoman Means. 

Councilman Paul Klein (District 11), the other negative vote on the neutral recommendation, agreed that current evidence doesn’t prove that second-hand vape smoke is harmful, but he ultimately wants to do what he feels is the best for public health. 

“My concern is there doesn’t seem to be a social benefit,” said Klein. “Obviously we need to drive in our cars and use public transportation and there’s stuff that we breathe in and breathe out that we would rather not, but the reality is we believe that there is some benefit in taking that risk, so my inclination would be to err on the side of recent regulation. We really ought to put the interest of the public first.” 

He also opposed tabling the legislation and passing it along with a positive recommendation. 

The proposal will be voted on before the entire council Tuesday, March 7.