The Fort Wayne City Council will soon consider changing the city's ordinance that prohibits smoking in most public spaces to include vaping.
A new ordinance to amend the city's current public smoking restrictions will be introduced Tuesday and is sponsored by Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large. Fort Wayne's smoking restrictions were first approved in 1998 with the most recent amendment in 2007.
The 2007 ordinance made it illegal to smoke in most public places in Fort Wayne at a time when smoking sections were common in restaurants. It also initially prohibited smoking within 20 feet of entrances of public places, but the City Council approved an amendment six months later – reducing the space to 8 feet – that was pushed by Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd.
Didier, who was the only member to vote against the public smoking ban, told his fellow members at the time that the amendment would help businesses coping with the new restrictions. Several Fort Wayne businesses unsuccessfully sued the city challenging the public smoking ban.
Hines abstained from the vote on the 2007 smoking ordinance, saying he couldn't in good conscience vote for either side.
The new amendment would add electronic smoking devices to the current public smoking restrictions. It would also change the definition of smoking to include vaping.
“This includes the use of an electronic smoking device which creates aerosol or vapor in any manner or form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking in this ordinance,” the proposed definition of smoking reads.
The proposed amendment states that electric smoking devices “do not just emit water vapor, but instead emit a secondhand aerosol that contains nicotine, ultrafine particles and toxins which are known to cause cancer.” The amendment also includes that the concentration of the ultrafine particles from electronic smoking devices are higher than conventional tobacco cigarette smoke.
“My only comment is that we need to continue to protect the health of all citizens against tobacco and vaping products (in) public spaces,” Hines said in a statement. “Health experts have found vaping has negative side effects which impact non-smokers and should also be banned from public places.”
But Dr. John Crawford, an oncologist and the former City Council member who pushed the 1998 and 2007 smoking restrictions, said he hasn't taken a position on the ordinance, and the data is “very preliminary.”
“There's no long-term data on health risks with secondhand or thirdhand vaping,” he said.
After the City Council passed the 2007 restrictions, he fought for statewide public smoking restrictions. Crawford said he hasn't been involved with the proposed ordinance.
“We didn't pass our smoking ordinance based on secondhand smoking data until it was certain,” Crawford said Friday. “Just because you think it might be bad doesn't tell you how bad it is or if it is worth passing a law on it.”
About 8.1 million people, including 3.6 million juveniles, were estimated to use electronic smoking devices in the United States in 2018, according to the ordinance. Vaping usage increased by 300% for Indiana's youth, it states.
The ordinance will be introduced at the City Council meeting Tuesday. Presentations, discussions and action will be done at a later date.