Vaping now illegal indoors, smoking distance increases from building entrances

Published: Jul. 1, 2019 at 6:59 AM MDT
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New smoking laws in Colorado went into effect Monday.

It is now illegal to use electronic cigarettes, or “vape,” inside most public buildings. This new law amends the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which banned smoking inside some public spaces in 2006. Marijuana was added to the law in 2013.

“This bill was very important to me as a pediatric pulmonologist because of the fact that we’re seeing such a high rate of youth electronic cigarette use in Colorado,” said Dr. Grace Houser from Children’s Hospital Colorado.

She said she hopes this bill helps cut down on the number of teens who vape.

“Youth see other adults using these products and just the normalization of those products in the public spaces make it look OK, and youth don’t realize how dangerous these products are,” Houser said. “So one of the benefits of this bill will be that it helps to remove that perceived normalization among youth to show that these products are really not safe and not OK for youth to be using.”

Studies show that Colorado high school students vape twice as much as the national average.

“We know from statistical information from surveys of youth that 87 percent of Colorado youth know that use of traditional cigarettes is risky to their health, but only 50 percent know that the use of electronic cigarettes is risky,” Houser said.

She said there is no evidence that shows e-cigs are safe, even though that’s how they’re commonly marketed.

Another component of the law increases how far away people have to stand from the entrance of a public building when they’re smoking or vaping. The law used to require 15 feet, but now people have to stand 25 feet away from building entrances.

“We know from studies that the radius that’s really required for people to not be exposed to second-hand smoke is 25 feet,” Houser said.

She said medical studies show that smoke from e-cigs contains nicotine and some of the same chemicals as smoke from traditional cigarettes.

“While the evidence is still building around what specific health effect those have, we would assume that those are going to be the same problems that we see from second-hand exposure to traditional cigarettes,” Houser said.

The new law also removes outdated exemptions that include small businesses with three or fewer employees and common areas of assisted living facilities, hotels, motels and airports. Houser said this protects everyone’s right to breathe clean, smoke-free air.