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Allegheny County Council sets vote on proposed vaping ban

Theresa Clift
| Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 5:48 p.m.
Sales associate Carly Cappelli exhales vapor as she smokes her e-cigarette on Friday, June 20, 2014, in the Steel City Vapors store in Castle Shannon.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Sales associate Carly Cappelli exhales vapor as she smokes her e-cigarette on Friday, June 20, 2014, in the Steel City Vapors store in Castle Shannon.

A controversial vaping ban is set to be decided Tuesday when it comes to a vote before Allegheny County Council.

Six council members said they will vote in favor of the ban, five said they will vote against it, and one will recuse himself, they told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday.

That leaves three members who have not said how they will vote. The legislation would ban e-cigarettes everywhere cigarette smoking is not allowed, including indoor workplaces, schools, restaurants, health care-related properties, theaters, sports facilities and transit stations.

The council's Health and Human Services Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday to send the proposal to the full council with a neutral recommendation after motions to table it and to send it to council with a positive recommendation tied.

Committee members Ed Kress, Cindy Kirk, Sue Means and Tom Baker — all Republicans — voted in favor of tabling it and against sending it to full council with a positive recommendation.

Committee members Jim Ellenbogen, Paul Klein, John Palmiere and Bob Macey — all Democrats — voted the opposite way on both motions.

Committee member Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, was absent.

“I'm just trying to get this thing upstairs, one way or another,” said Palmiere, referring to the full, 15-member council.

In addition to Kress, Kirk, Means and Baker, Councilman Sam DeMarco, an at-large Republican, said he planned to vote against the ban.

Councilwoman Denise Renalli-Russell, D-Brighton Heights, and Councilman Pat Catena, D-Carnegie, said they would join Ellenbogen, Klein, Palmiere and Macey in voting for the ban.

Futules, council's vice president and a restaurant owner, told the Trib he would not cast a vote at full council to avoid a conflict of interest. It's the reason he skipped the committee meeting, even though he is a member, he said.

Council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, said he has not decided which way he will vote.

Council members Charles Martoni and DeWitt Walton — both Democrats — have not said how they will vote and did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

Dr. Karen Hacker, executive director of the county's Health Department, whose board recommended the legislation, defended the ban to the committee.

“We are not making this in a vacuum,” said Hacker, referring to other states and municipalities that have enacted similar bans. “As folks trying to protect the public health, we are convinced there is a rational reason to take this particular step.”

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