A bill to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in most businesses and public places moved one step closer to becoming law in Prince George’s County on Thursday after lawmakers voted it out of committee.
Council member Todd Turner (D-Bowie) sponsored the bill that would regulate the distribution and sale of the nicotine vaporizing devices while restricting “vaping” in most restaurants, bars, public and senior citizen housing.
If it passes later this year, Prince George’s will become the fourth jurisdiction in Maryland to issue a ban, following Baltimore City and Howard and Montgomery counties. The federal government is considering rules for the billion-dollar industry. While e-cigarettes do not pose the same health risks as traditional cigarettes, it is still unclear if they are completely safe.
“Let’s not wait if something happens in the future but let’s be proactive,” Turner said during the hearing Thursday. “The desire of the bill was in essence to put e-cigarettes in the same category of restriction as other tobacco products.”
But in order to move the bill forward, Turner had to make one major concession.
Council member Derrick L. Davis (D-Mitchellville) introduced an amendment that would exempt businesses with state video lottery licenses. In other words, “vaping” would be permitted at the MGM National Harbor casino once it opens in summer 2016.
Baltimore City leaders inserted a similar exception for the Horseshoe Casino and gave some bars and restaurants the option to opt-out of their 2014 ban.
Turner said he had hoped the legislation would pass amendment-free but it won’t stop him from voting for the bill when the whole Council hears it in the coming weeks.