This week, the New Orleans City Council will vote on a measure that could ban smoking, including electronic cigarettes, in bars and casinos citywide (see Commentary). But at a "town hall" meeting on the ordinance last week, e-cigarette smokers — "vapers" — and vape store owners said they felt unfairly targeted, given their product has nothing to do with tobacco.
Last year, state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, authored a bill banning minors from buying e-cigarettes (that law went into effect last May) and several local universities have included e-cigs in their smoke-free campus policies.
E-cig supporters argue that if cigar and hookah bars are exempt from the ordinance, their stores should be as well so that customers can "taste" vape products. Others simply say e-cigs do not pose a health threat and shouldn't be compared to cigarettes, and that legislating against them before government health agencies issue any formal warning about them is overreaching. Health officials say preliminary studies show e-cigs produce harmful chemicals in their vapor, and because they often resemble cigarettes, allowing their use would complicate enforcing a ban.
The ordinance could gain the backing of e-cig users and sellers if the council agrees to remove them from the ban, according to Anthony Kolesa of SmokeCignals, an Uptown vape shop. Otherwise, they will oppose it, he said.
The City Council will take up the issue Thursday, Jan. 22.