Politics

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer wants to add e-cigarettes and hookahs to the city’s smoking ban.

The mayor called on the Metro Council to take such an action during his annual state of the city address this week. He said a surge in e-cigarette and hookah use is “a dangerous shift” from traditional cigarettes.

The city’s current smoke-free ordinance took effect in January 2008 and banned smoking in all buildings open to the public and establishments where people work. The ordinance defines smoking as “the act of inhaling or exhaling the smoke from any lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe or other combustible tobacco product.”

The push to add e-cigarettes and hookahs to the ban sparked a hot debate across the city in recent months.

In September, more than 100 people packed a public forum to discuss the ban’s proposal. Some critics to the ban suggested e-cigarettes can help people reduce dependency on nicotine.

A recent report from the city’s health department suggests adding e-cigarettes and hookahs to the city’s smoking ordinance, according to a report from The Courier-Journal.

In the report, which included letters supporting such a ban from the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, health department officials said adding e-cigarettes and hookahs to the city’s smoking ban “will act to protect Louisville Metro’s clean air standards, protect against secondhand exposure to harmful chemicals, and improve enforcement efforts.”

Pushback Likely

It’s unlikely Fischer’s plea will sail through the Metro Council, however.

David Yates, president of the Metro Council, wouldn’t endorse the mayor’s call to bolster the smoking ban during an interview following Fischer’s annual address earlier this week.

“It’s something we’re going to send to committee, we’re going to educate ourselves on and we’re going to discuss,” he said.

Yates, a District 25 Democrat, said council members would work to find balance between supporting public health initiatives and creating a thriving business environment in the city.

Members of the council’s minority Republican minority caucus, however, “have serious concerns regarding this proposal,” said Steve Haag, a caucus spokesman, in an email Friday. He said Republican council members question the validity of the report from the city’s health department.

“As well as the fact that such a ban would eliminate businesses and jobs should it pass,” he added.

Fischer made a call for adding e-cigarettes and hookah to the city’s smoking ban last year, also. Thirteen other communities in Kentucky have already done so.

Featured image credit: http://vaping360.com/what-is-vaping/

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.