Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that he has asked the Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness to lead a community conversation on the possibility of expanding Louisville’s current smoking ban to include e-cigarettes and hookah.
“Smoking has devastated our community, causing pain, suffering and shortened lives, and saddled taxpayers with enormous healthcare costs,” the Mayor said. “I believe broadening the ban to include e-cigarettes and hookah is a logical extension of the battle to save lives from the dangers of tobacco, and today I ask the Public Health Department to begin a community conversation on this pressing issue.”
Fischer called on the department to review all available research, study other cities’ related actions, and seek public input in a broad community conversation on the issue. The department will set up meetings where citizens can hear experts discuss available research and offer their opinions on the products and a potential ban.
Kentucky’s rates of smoking and of smoking-related illnesses, such as lung cancer, are among the nation’s highest. These high rates led to Louisville’s current smoking ban, passed in 2008, which bans smoking in all indoor locations.
Reducing the prevalence of tobacco use – and resulting death rates – is “critical to the future of our citizens and our community as a whole,” Fischer said. It’s also a core element of Healthy Louisville 2020, the Mayor’s strategic plan for making Louisville a healthier city.
“Research suggests that the use of e-cigarettes and hookah may lead to use of tobacco cigarettes, and, with flavors like chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and many others, there’s a real danger of our children being lured into a lifetime of tobacco use,” he said.
According to the FDA, more than a third of the bad effects of e-cigarettes happen to non-users in public places. E-cigarettes contain such toxic chemicals as nicotine, formaldehyde and acrolein. And while people may think that hookah is less harmful than cigarette smoking, it has many of the same health consequences, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy. Both national and local air-quality studies show that hookah lounges have levels of toxins that far exceed safe levels established by the EPA.
The Greater Louisville Medical Society and the Louisville Metro Board of Health both have approved resolutions stating that the increasing prevalence of alternative tobacco products and nicotine delivery systems represent threats to public health that should be addressed in the city’s secondhand smoke law.
Though some argue that e-cigarettes are helpful to people attempting to quit smoking, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, is among those expressing worry about e-cigarettes, and their growing use among both adults and children. Relatedly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.
The Mayor stressed that any ban — should one eventually be recommended — would affect only public places, so citizens would still be allowed to use these products in their homes and other private spaces.
“One of the pillars of my administration is to make Louisville a healthier community,” Fischer said. “The health department review and conversation will give us the tools to ensure we’re doing that in a measured and effective way.”