Rules that would prohibit vaping in public places in the largest city in western Massachusetts are being considered by public health officials.
The Springfield Public Health Council on July 18th is scheduled to take up a proposed regulation governing vaping, which involves the use of devices, such as e-cigarettes, that heat liquid to produce a vapor containing nicotine.
" The regulation would prohibit vaping wherever cigarette smoking is not allowed," said Springfield Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris.
Massachusetts state law mandates a tobacco smoke-free work environment, but so far the legislature has left it up to local governments and private entities to decide what to do about vaping. The Massachusetts House has approved a bill that would raise the age for purchasing both tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.
The impetus for Springfield to suddenly act on vaping regulations is the pending opening of the MGM casino.
While tobacco smoking is to be restricted to five designated outdoor areas in the 14.5 acre resort gambling complex, vaping will likely be allowed inside the casino, according to MGM Springfield Vice President & General Counsel Seth Stratton.
"That is our intent currently," said Stratton. " Activities that are permitted ( by law) that don't conflict with our business we generally allow our patrons to engage in."
Springfield City Councilor Mike Fenton, who chairs the Casino Oversight Committee, said he considers vaping to be a “nuisance.”
"My position is that vaping should not be allowed in the casino except in the designated smoking areas which are outside," said Fenton.
Caulton-Harris said the proposed vaping regulations are not targeting any specific entity such as the casino.
"The public health council is looking at this as a public health issue," said Caulton-Harris. She said some vaping delivery systems contain carcinogins.
If the public health council adopts the proposed regulation, the City Council would have to set fines for violations before the new vaping rules could be enforced. City Councilor Jesse Lederman said he’ll schedule a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee, which he chairs, to look at the vaping issue.
" The fines will be determined either by state statute, or what is the norm across the Commonwealth," said Lederman.
The casino is scheduled to open on August 24th. It is unclear if new vaping regulations could be in place by then.