Dallas Considers Banning Vaping in Public Spaces

Dallas public vaping ban

The city of Dallas is moving closer to implementing a ban on vaping in public spaces, following recommendations from the Dallas Environmental Commission, a citizen-led advisory group. The proposed policy change aims to protect vulnerable populations from the potential harm caused by secondhand exposure to e-cigarette aerosols and vapors.

Expanding the Definition of Smoking

At a recent Parks, Trails, and the Environment committee meeting, Folashade Afolabi, a representative from the Dallas Environmental Commission, urged the city to expand its definition of smoking to include e-cigarettes, cigars, and vapes that produce an aerosol or vapor. This change would align Dallas with the “gold standard” of public health, as recommended by leading health organizations such as the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and World Health Organization.

Carlos Evans, director of Dallas’ Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability, stated that city staff are currently working on amending the code to prohibit smoking and aim to present the changes to the City Council within the next two to three months. The Parks, Trails, and Environment committee will receive another briefing before the proposal reaches the full Council.

Addressing the Rise of Vaping Among Teens

Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County’s Health and Human Services department, presented data highlighting the prevalence of e-cigarette use among teenagers. Although the percentage of Texas teens using e-cigarettes has decreased from 23% in 2014 to 16% in 2021, according to the Texas Youth Tobacco Survey, the rates remain concerning.

Huang emphasized the progress made in reducing conventional smoking rates among youth, with a significant drop from 35% in 1999 to 8.2% in 2019 among 12th graders. However, e-cigarette use among this age group has risen dramatically, from 1.6% in 2011 to 34.5% in 2019. “E-cigarettes are reintroducing and re-addicting a whole generation of kids to nicotine, which is very concerning for all of us,” Huang stated.

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Public Health Concerns and Support for the Ban

Dallas County data reveals that a January 2020 outbreak of severe lung illnesses related to e-cigarette exposure affected 63 people, with 35% of cases involving children under 18 years old. Huang recounted visiting patients in the hospital, many of whom required ICU hospitalizations due to the severity of their conditions.

The proposed ban on vaping in public spaces appears to face little opposition from City Council members and businesses that sell vaping products in Dallas. Bridget Payrot, director of operations and human resources for The Gas Pipe, which operates five smoke shops in Dallas, expressed support for the policy, stating, “We back that policy. First and foremost, the safety of everyone involved is the most critical element.”

Next Steps and Public Awareness

City Council member Paula Blackmon called for the creation of a public awareness campaign to educate teens and parents about the potential dangers of vaping, suggesting a partnership with the health department to broaden the campaign’s reach.

Council member Jesse Moreno, who was part of the 2016 smoking ban in city parks and trails, expressed his desire to see exceptions, such as those for the State Fair of Texas, golf courses, and gun ranges, “folded back into the broad regulation” as the city works to amend the code.

As Dallas moves closer to joining other Texas cities like Austin and Houston in banning e-cigarettes in public spaces, the focus remains on protecting public health and preventing a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping.

Matthew Ma