MONTANA – A vape shop owner in a Montana community is fighting back against a ban on indoor public vaping that treats the devices like tobacco products.
Ron Marshall, co-owner of Freedom Vapes in Hamilton, Montana, says he is not abiding by a recently enacted county wide ban on using electronic cigarettes in indoor public spaces. The Ravalli County Board of Health enacted the restriction May 9 byamending the city’s Indoor Clean Air Act to include nicotine devices under the definition of a tobacco product, reports NBC Montana.
Marshall says he is currently in compliance with state law, noting the electronic products he sells contain no actual tobacco. He says his products are actually getting smokers to ditch their deadly habit.
Critics also say the board rushed through the ban without consulting with leaders from both sides of the issue or even notifying the public. They are calling on city health regulators to rescind the restriction and allow the community to debate the issue before another vote, reports the Ravalli Republic.
Marshall said if he was aware of the impending vote he, “would have been there with bells on.”
“Who knows what other business owners would have been there if people had known about it… This came up just kind out of the blue,” Marshall told the Ravalli Republic. “We dealt with this on the state level during the last legislative session. We argued in front of the state judiciary committee that while it was fine to ban it in schools or county buildings, that decision for private businesses should be left up to the owners.”
State lawmakers rejected grouping vapor devices in with tobacco products, but a number of localities have forged ahead with their own public restrictions. The Missoula City Council recently passed a ban on public indoor use of vapor products, rejecting calls to exempt vape shops.
Marshall has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking clarity on how county regulators came to their decision.
“My concern is the Board of Health did not follow the proper protocol,” Marshall told the Ravalli Republic. “It should have been published in the paper. There should have been public discussion. Maybe there would have been a different resolution.”
Harm reduction experts are critical of policies that conflate combustible cigarettes’ destructive health impacts with vapor products. Policies should reflect the difference in risk between cigarettes and alternative technologies, the experts say.
A growing body of research suggests vaping does not carry any meaningful second-hand risks in indoor environments. A recent study investigating the health impact of aerosol vapor emitted from the devices shows that chemical levels in the vapor are well below the safety limits suggested by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
Millions of former U.S. smokers are embracing the positive science on vaping and using the harm-reduction tools to quit combustible cigarettes.
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