E-cigarettes could be added to city of Houston's smoking ban in indoor places

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- E-cigarettes don't currently fall under Houston's smoking ordinance, but they could soon be.

The ordinance, which was passed in 2006, prohibits smoking tobacco inside public places, within 25 feet of a public building's entrance or exit, and other public areas, including bus stops and outdoor spectator events.

On Wednesday, Houston City Council will discuss adding e-cigarettes and vaping products to the smoking ordinance. If passed, it would go into effect immediately.

"When smokers breathe in the aerosol (from e-cigarettes and vaping products), it contains nicotine, chemicals that could cause cancer. It can also have flavorings that cause serious lung disease," said Houston Health Department spokesman Porfirio Villarreal.

Dr. Lindy McGee, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said the toxic chemicals in vaping can create risks for all ages. She also emphasized concern for teenagers and adults.

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, vaping has been the most commonly-used tobacco product for teens in the United States since 2014.

"Youth smoking was going down, down, down, and then the vaping industry came along," said McGee. "In 2018, we had 25% of teenagers saying that they had vaped within the last 30 days. That's gone down a little bit, but it's still not where we want it to be."

In addition to limiting the effects of second-hand smoke, which is where other people's smoke is breathed in by others, and third-hand smoke, where chemical residue from smoke builds up on surfaces, McGee hopes adding e-cigarettes to the city's smoking ordinance can also play a role in deglamorizing e-cigarettes to teenagers.

"Even though teenagers may not be vaping in public as much, they're seeing young adults vape in public, and that's who they want to copy," said McGee.

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