AUSTIN – The City of Austin’s smoking ordinance now includes e-cigarettes and vaping, less than two weeks after the city council amended it.
Monday, July 3, the refined ordinance took effect - meaning e-cigarettes are now also banned from public spaces including city buildings, workplaces, restaurants, parks and more.
The Austin City Council gave final passage to amending the ordinance during their June 22 meeting. The original ordinance – passed in 2005 – restricted smoking in public areas, including parks, bars and restaurants. E-cigarettes or vaping have become popular since then and had not included in the ordinance. For the last year and a half, the city's public health department had worked to add e-cigs into the ordinance, saying it will protect people from second-hand vape.
"We don't know what kinds of chemicals are in vape and whether or not it's safe and so we want to make sure that everybody has the right to breathe vape-free air and have their lungs protected," said Christie Garbe, Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer for Austin Central Health, in June.
While many people think e-cigarettes are a healthier option, the FDA tested several types and found they have known carcinogens and many labeled as nicotine-free actually contained nicotine.
However, others hold that the vapor-based smoking system is healthier and can be used to break tobacco and nicotine addictions.
"We're trying to provide an alternative to traditional tobacco," Area Manager for Create A Cig, Izzie Ratliff said. "And it still isn't at the mass levels like nicorete or other alternatives."
Ratliff said Create A Cig had already experienced a change like this in their Waco store. The city passed an ordinance banning e-cigs in public spaces and, unexpectedly, their business increased.
She said she understands and even respects the ordinance.
"We have to be courteous of other people," she said, "the same way that smokers have to be courteous. It's time we play by the rules."
Ratliff said their company will keep offering vaping and e-cig products and believed that those looking to quit smoking cigarettes will still use it as a good tool.
"We believe everybody should have equal rights," she said, " Whether you're a smoker, a non-smoker or a vaper...I don't think this will impact us greatly. People are still going to look towards vaping as an alternative to quit smoking."