Health commissioner: E-cigarette bill isn't perfect but is a step forward

Balto. health commissioner: e-cigarette ban isn't perfect, but it's progress.

Recent legislation regulating the use of electronic smoking devices passed by the City Council and expected to soon be signed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is a step in the right direction to protect Baltimore's children and adults from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes ("Don't fall for tobacco industry e-cigarette smokescreen," Nov. 25).

I want to thank the partners and organizations that supported the bill and helped enact a positive change for Baltimore.

This law establishes the general rule that e-cigarette use is prohibited wherever conventional cigarette use is prohibited in accordance with our Indoor Clean Air laws. Narrow exceptions to the general rule were included through amendments which provide that e-cigarette use will be permitted in casinos and only in restaurants and taverns where there is conspicuous signage posted on walls and menus. While the law's narrow exemptions are not ideal, the law will help to reduce potential harm to the public. Furthermore, the law bans the use of e-cigarette devices within 50 feet of any playground, schoolyard, athletic facility or swimming pool. It also requires that e-cigarettes be placed behind the counter in stores so that salesperson intervention is necessary for purchase.

Selling e-cigarettes to minors is illegal. This law allows for the Baltimore City Health Department to enforce compliance with laws regulating e-cigarettes through penalties and fines. This is especially significant due to the national trend of an increase in use of e-cigarettes by youth.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of electronic cigarettes by high-school students has tripled in two years. These numbers are staggering, and we need to do what we can now to protect our youth and ensure that e-cigarettes are not a gateway to nicotine addiction and the use of conventional cigarettes.

The Health Department will advocate for future regulations tightening even further where any electronic smoking devices may be used.

While it was our preference to have the original bill passed into law without any exceptions, we are hopeful that this law will prove to be another tool as we continue the fight against the dangers of tobacco and nicotine use.

Dr. Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore's interim health commissioner.

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