The city outlawed vaping in public spaces Wednesday, amending Houston’s smoking ordinance to include electronic cigarettes.
City Council voted 16-0 to approve the amendment, proposed last year by the Houston Health Department in response to growing scientific consensus on the dangers of vaping.
The amendment adds all types of e-cigarette devices — including vape pens, electronic pipes and hookahs — to the smoking ban, which bars cigarettes from enclosed public places and seating areas and within 25 feet of any building. It does not affect hookah bars or other private areas where smoking is permitted.
“You can now go into bars and restaurants without fear that someone vaping nearby will be impacting your health,” said District I Councilmember Robert Gallegos, chair of the council’s Quality of Life Committee.
Gallegos cited the public health benefit of regulating e-cigarettes, which are filled with a liquid nicotine derived from tobacco that becomes an aerosol when the user inhales. Ultra-fine particles emitted by the vapor and toxins from the devices’ heating elements can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, federal studies suggest, even when nicotine-free vape liquid is used.
The council member offered few details on how the ban will be enforced, but said law enforcement would likely extend a “grace period” to vape users in the coming months.
See here for the background. As I recall, there were grace periods for each of the previous additions to the smoking ban. There was some fuss about enforcement with the previous amendments as well, though from today’s vantage point it hardly seems like it amounted to anything. My expectation is that places will update their signage, some people will need to be tapped on the shoulder and informed of the revised ordinance, and modulo an unhappy vaper or two that will likely be the extent of it. I suppose in a world where a non-trivial number of people were giant assholes about wearing masks during COVID that some vapers could make public displays of resistance that are designed to go viral. I’m not too worried about that, but I will note it because I can’t say it won’t happen. I don’t expect it to, but you never know.