City may prohibit vaping in public places

Public Health Service will conclude review by spring 2018

A newly proposed initiative by Winnipeg’s city council may see e-cigarettes counted among many tobacco products which will be prohibited on outdoor patios at bars and restaurants.

Although standing bylaws already exist to regulate public smoking, products like e-cigarettes have arisen since smoking regulations were last updated in 2011.

At Flamingo Vape Shop in Osborne Village, though employee Cody McLaughlin doesn’t think that the devices are on par with tobacco products like cigarettes, he doesn’t oppose the initiative either.

“I can see them being a nuisance to non-users in public areas like patios, and I can understand why we would want to regulate blowing it in other people’s faces,” he says.

In June 2017, the Winnipeg Public Health Service began a review, commissioned by city council, to make recommendations on the initiative. According to the Winnipeg City Council website, among the list of products under review are “cigarettes, cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, water pipes, hookahs and other similar products or devices that produce second-hand smoke.” As second-hand smoke is a key factor in the bylaw review, e-cigarettes may not qualify.

“I won’t have a problem with it being out of people’s way. That’s more of a ‘being polite’ issue than a health issue,” McLaughlin says.

Winnipeg City Council’s review will survey 600 random Winnipeggers via telephone, and an online survey on the city’s website will form a part of the public engagement poll. The city council website will publish results, which are expected to be submitted by spring of 2018. The review will also include input from businesses and other stakeholders, as well as public opinion.

“The health concerns are way lower than with cigarettes,” Curtis Friesen, one of McLaughlin’s regulars, says.

Friesen says that the device helped him quit.

“I was a long-time smoker. I couldn’t even run a block before I switched to vaping. I don’t smoke anymore. Friends of mine who were smokers have quit. My health improvements are very noticeable,” he says.

While some reports connect formaldehyde and other harmful carcinogens to vaping devices, Friesen says the problems come from poor wiring and batteries, not from the e-juice itself.

“You just have to look into choosing the best-made device”, he says, “and maintenance is key. I think they (the review board) should listen to those of us who use the device.”

“I guess we can’t know of the long-term harmful effects until something happens in the future,” McLaughlin says, “but so far the scores are all good, and I can attest that it has helped me quit smoking and also improved my health. We are the ongoing experiment.”

As of Oct. 1, the Manitoba Government put into effect The Non-Smokers Protection Amendment Act (e-cigarettes). This legislation restricts youth access to vape products and places restrictions on the display, advertising and use of vapour products similar to certain tobacco products. For more information, visit gov.mb.ca/health/tobacco/guide.html.

Published in Volume 72, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 19, 2017)

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