Community

Electronic cigarettes and hookah are now included in the city’s smoking ban.

The Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance to amend the ban as such during their regular council meeting Thursday night.

The 15-6 vote of approval for the ordinance means electronic cigarettes and hookah use is now prohibited in buildings open to the public and establishments in which people work.

“I am still of the opinion that neither e-cigs or hookah can be deemed safe or healthy for human consumption,” said councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, a Democrat and the sponsor the ordinance.

Welch said legislators reached a compromise with local business owners, who voiced concern during committee meetings about the measure’s likelihood to reduce retail activity.

Consumers can still sample electronic cigarette flavors, under the measure. And certain hookah lounges will be exempt from the regulations, per the ordinance.

The push to bolster the city’s smoking ban began in earnest after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called on the council to take such action during his annual state of the city address in February.

Fischer issued a statement shortly after the vote expressing gratitude for the measure’s approval. He said the move will uphold “our standard for clean, smoke-free indoor air.”

Despite his support, the measure was met with resistance from some Metro Council members.

Councilman Kevin Kramer, a Republican from District 11, said he’s been provided with little evidence that hookah products are detrimental to users’ health.

“This might be a little bit too much, I think it’s time to slow down a little bit,” he said.

Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, a Democrat from District 3, called the ordinance an overreach of government regulation.

“I don’t know where all this concern is, when we have to breath the air in west Louisville and Rubbertown,” she said.

Woolridge drew laughter when she praised her colleagues for allowing residents to still smoke in their private homes.

And Councilwoman Jessica Green, a Democrat from District 1, considered Fischer’s push to add electronic cigarettes and hookah to the city’s smoking ban a “publicity stunt.”

Green too said more attention should be paid to pollutants coming from factories along the Ohio River. Specifically, she cited American Synthetic Rubber, a factory along the Ohio River that’s set to have certain requirements related to the release of toxic chemicals into the air loosened by the Air Pollution Control Board,which is under Fischer’s direction.

“We’ve got toxins and carcinogens floating all throughout west Louisville,” Green said.

The city’s smoking ban was originally enacted in January 2008.

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.