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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Blowing smoke: the vape debate

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I’m not a smoker, I won’t lose any sleep over whether or not a stranger can smoke on the sidewalk and no matter how many people openly wave guns at rallies, I still very much value the ability of the government to restrict liberties.
But there are aspects to the College Station City Council debate surrounding electronic cigarette usage that are worth being concerned about, particularly the parts that pertain to business rights and our council’s process of deliberation.
The big sell for an ordinance amendment presented to the city council for approval Aug. 25 was the idea that the city wants to protect innocent bystanders from the potentially harmful side effects of nicotine in second-hand electronic vaporizer smoke. In three parts, the ordinance would restrict 1) the sale of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers to minors, 2) the use of such materials by minors and 3) the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers in areas where traditional cigarettes are already prohibited, excluding vape shops.
If the restriction of traditional cigarettes is any indication, this is an empty promise.
According to the College Station Police Department, no citations were issued for smoking traditional cigarettes in public in the last year. There are two possibilities to explain this: either we truly live in a smoke-free oasis or the problem is so small that police officers have more pressing concerns.
If this ordinance is enacted, it won’t protect the random passerby from vapor any more than the current smoke-free rules on campus stop smokers from gathering on the benches outside the Evans Library Annex.
It will, however, hurt local businesses that sell or serve electronic vaporizers but do not make 30 percent or more of their revenue from the sale of such materials — in other words, businesses that do not qualify for the ordinance’s exemption as a vape shop.
The bars that choose to serve electronic hookahs or market their location as a vaping-friendly hang-out would be in a difficult situation — if they want to provide consumers with a product their customers consider to be safer than traditional cigarettes, they have to act under the table or ignore illegal activity.
But my real quarrel with this ordinance amendment comes into place when you consider that no concrete evidence was provided to the council to state that there is a direct impact on the health of the surrounding bystanders. There were never any anecdotal cases, either.
There were, however, representatives from Social on Northgate who told council members at the last meeting that the electronic hookahs they would not be allowed to serve under the proposed ordinance changes do not even contain nicotine, tobacco or tar.
Likewise, an emotional man told council members all his health problems that came along with being a two-packs-a-day chain smoker went away when he began vaping.
I applaud the levelheaded council members at the last meeting for at least delaying the vote on the ordinance until more exclusions were looked into, but the council should have either simply passed the first two prongs of the ordinance or delayed the vote with the caveat that ordinance authors must provide solid evidence stating that electronic vaporizers are a threat to the health of College Station citizens not engaging in them.
The bigger issue is not that the list of exemptions is discriminatory toward one business versus another, but without substantial studies or even any testimonials to back up a claim that e-cigs are harmful, we are essentially saying that we don’t like the way they smell.
We don’t put restrictions on where people with bad body odor can move around town, but if the third prong to the amendment is passed at the next city council meeting, we are putting restrictions on people who smoke electronic bubblegum-scented hookah.
Again, my life will not be affected if the third part of this ordinance is passed and it’s hard to put an exact number on the financial impact on bars like Social.
But even in the best-case scenario where the financial impact is minimal, the passing of this ordinance would be a sad representation of the responsibility that comes with the ability to control someone’s actions.

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