Carmel could expand e-cigarette ban, outlaw all smoking at bars

Proposed smoking ban expansion

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — City officials met Monday to discuss expanding a proposed e-cigarette ban and outlawing all smoking at Carmel bars.

The original ordinance was introduced in May to regulate the use of e-cigarettes in “public places” following reports of rampant vaping among Carmel High School students.

During a Finance, Utilities and Rules Committee meeting Monday night, officials discussed adding parks, trails, multi-use paths and school buses to the list of public places covered by the ordinance.

The committee also discussed adding police officers and community service officers to the list of officials eligible to enforce the ordinance, and creating a “comprehensive smoke-free policy” by revoking smoking ban exemptions from bars and private clubs.

“We’re thrilled to hear that the city of Carmel is considering a comprehensive ordinance,” said Nick Torres, an advocacy director for the American Lung Association. “When we talk about the harm of e-cigarettes, we certainly can’t leave out addressing the harm of other tobacco products like traditional tobacco cigarettes in public.”

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Torres was among a group of approximately eight people who offered public comment during Monday’s committee meeting.

Business owners, a physician, a Breathe Easy Hamilton County representative and Carmel High School students also urged city officials to enact a comprehensive smoking ban.

“It’s crazy rampant,” rising Carmel High School junior Isabel Jensen said of e-cigarette use on campus. “(Students) do it in the bathroom all the time. There (are) specific bathrooms that you don’t want to go to during lunch because every single time you go in there, there will be someone vaping.”

E-cigarette use among high school students increased 78% between 2018 and 2019, according to data from the American Lung Association.

Vaping can act as a “gateway” behavior for teen users who develop nicotine addictions and eventually progress to smoking tobacco cigarettes, Torres said.

He called it “ironic,” noting e-cigarettes were sometimes touted as an effective way to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.

“Investing in prevention and education programs is so important, especially for youth,” Torres told News 8. “We would love to see schools working with [city] councils and the state health department to revamp tobacco education efforts.”

Education-related initiatives were discussed at Monday’s committee meeting but were not adopted as potential ordinance amendments.

The Finance, Utilities and Rules Committee will meet again to discuss the proposed changes and gather additional community feedback, members said.

The Carmel City Council could vote on the amended ordinance as early as July, officials told News 8.