This month the Hunstsville-Madison County Public Library System in Alabama has not only banned smoking, but also chewing and dipping tobacco, and vaping with electronic cigarettes, in a new policy that went into effect on New Year’s Day.
While safety reasons were also cited in the ban, given that a cigarette’s ash could easily ignite the library’s stacks of books, health was the main concern for the library and county staff.
“We want to provide a healthful environment for library employees and visitors,” said Ann Marie Martin, the communications director for all 12 of the library’s branches.
Before Jan. 1, visitors and employees could smoke in a designated area away from the entrance, but smoking is now completely banned inside the library and outside on the grounds. Those who break the rule will be asked to leave the premises.
Smoking and vaping bans around Alabama may do some part to help more Americans live tobacco-free, especially as the state and others like it focus on having more health initiatives and education for their residents.
When former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Regina Benjamin spoke last week at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, she noted that cigarettes pose some of the biggest obstacles for those in poverty who need preventative healthcare.
Alabama ranks among the highest nation for cigarette use, said Benjamin, spurred in part by the low taxes on cigarettes — closer to those in Louisiana, which charges just 39 cents per pack on cigarettes, rather than New York, which ranks highest in taxes at $4.35 per pack.
Other areas of the country have enacted similar bans on smoking and electronic cigarettes.
The Madison City Council in Wisconsin has proposed a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes in most indoor workplaces, in conjunction with a smoking ban that is already in place.
The ordinance amendment has support from 12 out of the 20 council members — enough to pass the measure if they continue to support it. The ban would apply to places such as restaurants, stores, theaters and other indoor businesses.
But not all community members support the ban. Such residents make up some of the 2.5 million or more total “e-cig” users throughout the country, and they argue that these devices have helped them quit smoking.
Although research doesn’t yet show any negative health effects of secondhand vapor, supporters of the ban say that there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to show what exactly non-vapers would be breathing in.
Twenty-four people at the December Madison and Dane County Board of Health Meeting opposed the ban, with just six supporting it.
But District 3 Ald. Lauren Cnare, said that the ban won’t be a “prohibition” on the devices, and people could still use them while at home or walking down the street. “It merely says you need to do this in places where other people aren’t going to breathe whatever it is that comes out in vapor,” she said.