Public health advocates on Tuesday called on Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to veto the City Council’s ban on the use of e-cigarettes inside most businesses, calling the legislation a “bad bill” that would weaken the state’s indoor smoking ban by permitting vaping inside Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino and some bars or restaurants.

At a news conference at the American Cancer Society’s Baltimore Hope Lodge, Del. Barbara A. Frush, who represents Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, said she planned to introduce a statewide ban of e-cigarette smoking inside businesses. Such a measure failed earlier this year.

“We cannot and must not fall for the same old tobacco industry tricks,” she said.

The City Council gave final approval this month to a bill banning vaping nearly everywhere that traditional cigarette smoking is prohibited. The legislation was criticized by some e-cigarette users, who argued the devices aren’t actually cigarettes and shouldn’t be treated as such.

The legislation, which was sponsored by Councilman James B. Kraft, would allow bars and restaurants to opt out of the ban if they post signs informing potential customers.

Bonita Pennino, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, urged the mayor to veto the measure, saying anything less than a complete ban on e-cigarette smoking inside businesses is unacceptable. Dr. Robert Brookland, the chairman of radiation oncology at Greater Baltimore Medical Center, said patrons of the Horseshoe Casino shouldn’t have to gamble on their health.

“No one, regardless in which section of a restaurant, tavern or casino they are working, dining or gaming, should have to choose between their health and a good job or a good time,” he said.

A spokesman for Rawlings-Blake said she intends to sign the council bill.

“The administration obviously favored a tougher bill,” spokesman Kevin Harris said. “The mayor had concerns about some of the amendments. But this is progress.” Harris added that he wished the advocates had been more vocal during the council’s process of amending the bill.

Banning smoking from public bars, restaurants and casinos is a very anti business overreaction. If you are trying to protect non smoking employees from secondhand smoke, require these establishments to have specific rooms were smoking is allowed. And only allow smoking employees to serve…

The legislation bans the use of e-cigarettes inside all city businesses except those that opt out or where vaping is the primary source of commerce.

The council added a last-minute amendment to allow vaping at the Baltimore Horseshoe Casino. Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said that amendment was designed to keep the Baltimore operation on a level playing field with the Maryland Live casino in Anne Arundel County.

Baltimore is one of many cities across the country grappling with how to regulate vaping, the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers that allow users to breathe in nicotine without inhaling some of the other harmful substances in traditional cigarettes, such as tar.
E-cigarette smokers are leery of the government intervention. They say vaping helps chronic smokers quit and poses no public health threat to others. But health experts remain concerned because studies have yielded mixed results about e-cigarettes.

At the center of the issue is a debate over perception and the lack of conclusive scientific evidence. Because many perceive vaping to be functionally the same as smoking, they want it to be regulated as such.

Kraft said he introduced his bill after attending Opening Day at Camden Yards this year, when his granddaughter asked him why people who were puffing on e-cigarettes were allowed to smoke.

Kraft said he believes the advocates urging a mayoral veto are well-meaning but misguided.

“If the mayor were to veto this bill, the smoking of e-cigarettes would be legal everyone in Baltimore,” he said. “Sometimes folks in their effort to get all or nothing don’t realize what they’re going to end up with.

“The perfect law would ban it everywhere. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. This is what we can pass at this time.”

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