Houston City Council approves ordinance to ban e-cigarette use, vaping in certain public spaces

HOUSTON – Houston City Council has passed an ordinance prohibiting the smoking of e-cigarettes, also referred to as “vaping,” in public locations.

The Houston Health Department sought approval to revise Chapter 21 Article IX Section 21-236 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances to prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices (including electronic cigarettes, electronic cigars, electronic cigarillos, electronic pipes, electronic hookah, vaping device, or any other product that utilizes aerosol liquid or vapor) wherever smoking is currently banned.

City of Houston ordinances prohibit smoking in enclosed public places or workplaces, within 25 feet of a building entrance or exit doors, outdoor arenas and outdoor seating areas of public spectator events and covered bus stops and light rail stops. The Texas Restaurant Association says it knew the ban was coming. The city of Houston reached out to them last year and asked if they had any concerns. “It didn’t surprise us and we’ll certainly educate our members and make sure they know what’s going on but we’re not anticipating a lot of problems,” said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, Chief Public Affairs Officer. Michael Jarvis, The Assistant General Manager of Canyon Creek Cafe Bar & Grill, is happy vaping is being regulated in Houston and doesn’t forsee any problems. He sees the move as a natural progression of the city’s smoking ban that was passed in 2006. “If it’s a law, we have to police the law, part of management’s job. I have no problem doing that. just a tap on the shoulder, sorry you can’t do that in here,” Jarvis said.

Smoking is permitted in private residences as long as they are not used as a childcare, adult day care or health care facility. Smoking is permitted in retail tobacco stores.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, a known neurotoxin considered one of the most highly addictive substances available for public consumption, which can harm the developing adolescent brain (which keeps developing until about the age of 25), including long-lasting changes in brain regions involved in addiction, attention, learning, and memory.

While users inhale e-cigarette aerosol into their lungs, bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales it into the air.

The FDA has also raised concerns about the epidemic levels of youth use of e-cigarettes, which may lead to the use of conventional tobacco products like combustible cigarettes and has issued a policy prioritizing enforcement against certain unauthorized flavored e-cigarette products that appeal to kids.

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