Austin City Council Passes Temporary E-Cigarette Ban

Created: 04/07/2014 10:44 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- On Monday night, the Austin City Council voted 4 to 3 in favor of a one-year moratorium, banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

"It's really an opportunity for us to have a year of time to see what the FDA does and to find out more about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes,” said councilor Janet Anderson.

The state is considering a similar law that would classify e-cigs the same as regular cigarettes.

But those councilors voting against the moratorium expressed concerns about limiting personal liberty and the lack of long-term studies on the effects of e-cigs.

"There is no conclusive evidence, just a lot of people who are against smoking and anything else,” said councilor Judy Enright. “I feel that people are responsible and need to be responsible."

And while experts agree more research is needed, they said the ordinance will help protect people until that information is available.

"I think it's good for the public safety, there's just too many unknowns yet with e-cigarettes," said Deb Skare, a tobacco cessation specialist at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin.

The new ordinance does not prevent people from opening vapor lounges or other similar businesses, but councilors said it's an issue that could be addressed down the road.

"I think it's something that should be thought about, and I think we need more information about it,” Anderson said. “We'll have to see, but I'm pleased that, even though it was a close vote, that [the moratorium] passed."

On Monday, the council also banned the use of hookahs in public places in an effort to close a potential loophole in the Clean Indoor Air Act.