The debate over whether electronic cigarettes are a credible stop-smoking aid is irrelevant to the question facing Lexington's Urban County Council.
The battery-powered nicotine-delivery devices emit carcinogens, volatile organic compounds, nicotine and small particles that lodge in non-users' lungs.
The council should ban e-cigarette use in workplaces and other indoor public spaces, as the Lexington Fayette Board of Health unanimously recommended this week.
In fact, we'd bet most people assume that e-cigs already are covered by Lexington's clean indoor air ordinance; it's just common sense that they would be.
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However, 11 years ago, when the city became the first in Kentucky to enact a ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, e-cigs had yet to enter the U.S. market, which is why the ban is worded in a way that does not include them.
The health board's recommendation to fix that omission puts it in good company. The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, World Health Organization and Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids all urge banning the public indoor use of e-cigarettes.
Gov. Steve Beshear wisely included e-cigarettes in his recent executive order extending the ban on smoking on state property to include the outdoors.
It doesn't really matter whether airborne poisons come from a chemical vapor or burning tobacco. Workers on the job and members of the public should be protected from exposure to them.
Clean indoor air laws have produced quantifiable improvements in public health, including fewer asthma and heart attacks.
Also, consistent with other places, in the decade since Lexington's ban took effect, the city's smoking rate dropped from 26 percent to 17.5 percent while smoking rates held steady elsewhere in Kentucky without such laws.
The U.S. surgeon general reported this year that while the main point of public smoking bans is to protect non-smokers from exposure to the thousands of chemicals in secondhand tobacco smoke, "a growing body of evidence suggests that these policies have the additional benefit of lowering smoking rates among youth and young adults." They see fewer role models who smoke and have fewer opportunities to smoke themselves.
Including e-cigs in Lexington's popular and successful clean indoor air ordinance should be an easy decision for the council.
To make Lexington an even healthier place to live, work and do business, the council also should consider following Beshear's lead by expanding protections against secondhand smoke to outdoor public places.