In early September, The City of Middleton approved an ordinance banning the use of vape products in workplaces where smoking is already banned.
As an evolution to the statewide smoking ban, the ordinance has also banned the use of vaping in "service lines" where people are waiting in line.
“Middleton has been a leader in many aspects as related to public health,” said Alder Luke Fuszard of the Middleton Common Council, who initially proposed the ban, “We are working to protect the health and well-being of the next generation in the hope that other communities will do the same.”
Alders said the ordinance was not a reaction to widespread reports of vaping-related illnesses and deaths.
“It was almost coincidental in terms of the fact that vaping has become such a national topic at the very moment that this was to be voted upon,” Fuszard said. “Though it reminded everyone consequences of their vote and the importance of it.”
Indeed, the national vaping backlash cropped up in August when the first death of vaping related sickness came to the forefront.
“Since the late summer, now over 500 cases identified of people around the country, but some of the earliest clusters were identified right here in Wisconsin,” said Dr. Douglas Jorenby, a professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and the director of Clinical Services at the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.
Vaping has startling popularity among teenagers and college students nationwide. According to a 2018 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, vaping increased from six percent to 16 percent among college students from 2017 to 2018.
Vaping has become even more normalized on the UW-Madison campus.
“Among UW undergraduates, 20 percent of them have vaped in the previous two weeks,” Jorenby said. “Which is a remarkably high number, a very strong signal that this is something that we need to take seriously.”
Wisconsin public officials were alarmed by the growing use of the devices to inhale nicotine early in 2014, as the Dane County Board of Supervisors has enacted a ban on the sales of e-cigarettes to youth under the age of 18.
“For the most part, our ordinances don’t apply in incorporated areas, and it was the Middleton Common Council that took this up and extended the ban on smoking to include vaping in any areas where you can not smoke, you can not vape,” said Sharon Corrigan, the chair of the Dane County Board of Supervisors.
While it’s too early to tell whether the Middleton ban will have a meaningful impact, a similar ordinance in Madison hasn’t hurt business, one vape store owner said.
Landon Meske, the general manager of Knuckleheads Tobacco & Vapes, a tobacco and vape store nestled on State Street, said an indoor vaping ban that took effect in Madison in 2015 didn’t hurt the business.
“It doesn’t affect businesses too much if they are banning vaping inside like a place of business. I mean, that’s just like smoking, it’s not going to impact us,” Meske said. “The thing that might affect us is that they increase the (legal vaping) age to 21.”
Even though the Middleton ban wasn’t a reaction to recent accounts of illnesses and deaths, it was motivated to prevent more.
“The primary concern, the primary motivation for all of these was public health,” Fuszard said.