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Westminster becomes first city in Maryland to ban vaping in indoor public areas

Westminster became the first municipality in the state to restrict vaping in most indoor public areas Monday night with the city’s council members voting unanimously to approve an addition to the city code.

The ordinance goes into effect July 1, at the start of the next financial year.

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No residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the Mayor and Common Council meeting, although the city received a handful of written comments.

A section will be added to the city code under peace and good order. The section includes prohibitions for smoking or vaping in enclosed public spaces, not including businesses specifically established for selling or distributing those products like vape shops and cannabis dispensaries.

The full ordinance and definitions of terms used are available as an attachment from the meeting agenda.

An individual who violates the code could be fined $50. Business establishments that violate could be fined $100 the first time or $200 the second time in 12 months. Each time after that could be a $500 fine within the 12 months. Businesses with multiple violations could be declared a public nuisance and face other fines and penalties.

It is based upon the Maryland regulations against smoking tobacco in similar areas. The Maryland Clean Indoor Air Act of 2007 was intended to limit the exposure to indoor tobacco smoke.

One person wrote the council to say he believed the ban would restrict his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because he used a vaping device for prescribed CBD, he said. He said it was also a shame that he could not watch the city’s meetings via video recording.

The city’s attorney said this would not violate his rights under ADA because it did not eliminate his ability to intake his prescription.

The letter seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect as two city officials noted that the idea of children being exposed to CBD via vape helped inform their opinion in favor of the ordinance.

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A couple wrote in to support the restriction, citing the fact that the Carroll Hospital campus does not allow it. The vapors are even more irritating to allergies than tobacco smoke, the woman wrote.

The process for the ordinance began after two residents attended a city meeting and talked about health concerns related to being exposed to vapor in public spaces. The two were in attendance to see the ordinance be voted into code Monday night.

Council members asked the city’s attorney to draft a potential ordinance on Dec. 9.

Council President Gregory Pecoraro said he was proud of the fact that Westminster will be the first municipality in the state to enact such legislation.

While no individual municipalities in Maryland have bans, there are some restrictions at the county level.

After being asked to research similar legislation in the state, City Attorney Elissa Levan found that at the county level, Prince George’s and Howard counties have banned the use of electronic cigarettes in all places where smoking is prohibited, Montgomery County has eliminated most vape shops, and Howard County has adopted additional restrictions on the sale and distribution of vaping devices, according to a memo to the council.

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Mayor Joe Dominick, who is not a voting member of the council, said at a previous meeting he thought the ordinance was a good idea.

“While I’m a big fan of personal freedoms," he said, "I think where it ends is when there are people that can’t really get away from whatever you’re doing.”

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