On Friday, Howard County council unanimously approved a bill banning "vaping" — or the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers — in public places.
Introduced by Councilman Jon Weinstein, an Ellicott City Democrat, the bill builds on the county's law against smoking in restaurants and bars, at outdoor athletic events and in amphitheaters, among other public places.
Howard led the state by going completely smoke-free in 2006, and five years later passed another milestone by becoming the first county in Maryland to ban smoking in parks.
Last November, the Baltimore City Council passed a law banning electronic cigarettes in most of the city's public places, with an exception for bars and restaurants that decide to allow vaping in their establishments. E-cigarettes – battery-powered devices that allow smokers to inhale nicotine without producing the noxious smoke of a traditional cigarette – have blossomed into a $1.5 billion industry since being introduced in the United States less than a decade ago.
Councilman Jon Weinstein, a Democrat from Ellicott City, introduced the legislation at a June council's voting session. Councilmembers Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa are co-sponsors.
The councilman said in June he decided to introduce the bill because he's concerned that smoke from e-cigarettes might have unknown harmful effects.
The devices, which are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have sparked controversy as their use has grown. According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse report cited in the bill, use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, or "vaping," has doubled every year since 2010.
Also on Friday, after nearly six months of back-and-forth, a bill creating a set of nutritional guidelines for the food and drink sold in Howard County government vending machines was voted, for a final time, into law.
The legislation, which requires a certain percentage of the food and drink offerings in county vending machines to meet a set of caloric, fat and sugar guidelines, was first passed by the County Council in early July, and then vetoed a week later by County Executive Allan Kittleman.
The 4-1 decision Friday traced party lines, with the council's lone Republican member, Greg Fox, casting the only dissenting vote. He and Kittleman argue that the bill chips away at personal freedoms.