Health

More than 100 people packed a forum at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness Wednesday night to hear from public health officials and scientists on the possible health effects of e-cigarettes and the impetus for a ban by the city.

In 2008, Louisville enacted a smoke-free ordinance in workplaces and indoor public spaces. The proposed ban would add e-cigarettes and hookah to that ordinance. Thirteen other communities in Kentucky have already done so.

Aruni Bathangar, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, said there’s solid research showing people exposed to e-cigarette vapor inhale the same amount of nicotine and other ingredients as the user.

He said it’s difficult to enforce any rules related to the use of e-cigarettes because the lines are blurred.

“Most places don’t have explicit legislation, so if you want to go to some people and say ‘you can’t use e-cigarettes indoors,’ we don’t have a law for that,” Bathangar said. “Some people have argued that there’s no law to stop us.”

But critics of the proposed ban, mostly e-cigarette store owners and manufacturers, said e-cigarettes are a critical tool for people trying to quit tobacco. Some argue that cigarette smokers use e-cigarettes as a bridge to eventually move down to using very-low or no level of nicotine.

Other supporters said the ban is unnecessary and could lead to more restrictions later. Christopher Kellums, who works at a vape shop in Louisville, said most vapers understand the unwritten rule of not vaping where you wouldn’t smoke.

Billy Bryant, owner of e-cigarette juice manufacturer Weird Vapes, echoed that sentiment.

“Why can’t we let a business decide if we want to subject my employees or patrons to this,” Bryant said. “Give them the information, make them aware of the studies. If a business wants to allow it, why can’t they allow it for a healthier alternative?”

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and other public health organizations issued guidance to cities and states in 2011 supporting the addition of e-cigarette bans to smoke-free laws.

Metro Government officials are asking the public to comment on the proposed ban. The deadline to submit comments is Friday, Oct. 28. Details are here.