With the emergence of vaping and e-cigarettes in the past decade, federal and state crackdowns on the products - many of which were untested - were inevitable. Philadelphia may have stringent laws about vaping, but most of Pennsylvania remains a Wild West of sorts. But this has the potential to change, as this week the Allegheny City Council is considering a ban on public use of these products.
Should it pass, this ban would include places that the Clean Indoor Air Act prevents cigarette use in - offices and other workplaces, restaurants, public schools, theaters, public transit stations, and more. The ban was first proposed in November, by the Allegheny County Board of Health.
In addition, the new law would ban anyone under the age of 18 from entering specialty shops that sell vape and e-cigarette products.
If this plan passes, it would inch Pennsylvania closer to the overwhelming majority of states, which already have a ban on the public use of vape pens. It would also help create a much safer Pennsylvania by keeping questionable vape smoke out of Allegheny air and dangerous, overheating vape batteries out of Allegheny residents’ pockets.
The 2014 Philadelphia Ban
The inspiration for this type of ban in Allegheny was signed into law right here in Philadelphia back in April of 2014. Then-Mayor Michael Nutter signed two bills into law to crack down on vaping.
The first bill stopped the sale of these products to minors, and went into effect immediately. The second bill banned the use of products in a wide variety of public places, and went into effect two months later.
In signing these bills, Nutter cited the Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Law of 2007, referring to these bills as a “sensible extension” of the law.
These bills were a great start to the regulation of e-cigarette products in Pennsylvania, and they were helped out tremendously by the FDA’s 2016 decision to ban the sale of such devices to anyone under 18. However, they only applied to philly, which meant much of the state remained at risk. But staying only in Philly meant leaving other areas of this large state at-risk. If Allegheny County decides to place a ban on public vaping, it could spur other counties to go in a similar direction.
The Positives of a Public Vape Ban
By following the suit of Philadelphia, counties like Allegheny would see overwhelmingly positive results by keeping vapes and vape smoke out of public areas.. As Nutter said, it makes sense as an extension of laws that sought to eliminate cigarette smoke from public spaces.
Simply put, there isn’t enough substantive evidence to back up claims that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than tobacco, or that they are an effective way to quit cigarettes. Claims such as those tend to be dubious and unsubstantiated, and often evidence is anecdotal.
Many studies with more research behind them actually show risks to using these devices. For example, one study found that many flavored e-cigarettes contain chemicals that, when inhaled, have the potential to cause a form of bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly referred to as “popcorn lung.”
Popcorn lung may not even be the most worrisome aspect of e-cigarettes. Stories have emerged a lot since the popularization of vapes and e-cigarettes about unsafe, faulty batteries overheating and causing e-cigarettes to explode in someone’s pocket - or worse, in their face.
These are not random accidents happening far away, either. They’re stories with consistently similar explanations, in nearby states like Kentucky. Each story that comes out from elsewhere, illustrates and enhances the importance of tough regulations here.
Allegheny County’s decision could be an enormous one for Pennsylvania. It’s a way to keep their residents safer by removing potentially harmful vapor and faulty products from public spaces as Philadelphia already did a few years prior.
Vapes aren’t the only devices that can harm you if not made correctly. Manufacturers have a legal obligation to create safe products; if they haven’t, Morgan & Morgan’s attorneys in Philadelphia might be of assistance. If you’d like to know more, read more about what our product liability attorneys do, or contact us for a free consultation.