LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Changes could be coming to Louisville’s smoking ban.

The Louisville Metro Community Affairs, Housing, Health and Education Committee passed the ordinance by a vote of 4-1 on Wednesday amending the ban.

Louisville will remain smoke-free, but the amendment does create potential changes for two different industries.

Part of the ordinance would allow customers to sample products or vape inside electronic cigarette stores, as long as no tobacco is involved. The attorney for the Kentucky Smoke Free Association, Greg Troutman, said this is the best result they could’ve gotten.

“Using the products in the store is integral in the business model of the vape stores,” Troutman said. “And giving this exemption – it is a very limited, tailored exemption – it’s going to keep these stores available and functioning, which is then going to help keep people off cigarettes and continue to practice harm reduction.”

After a large public showing of support for an exemption to e-cig stores at the last committee meeting, Councilwoman Marilyn Parker reworked the amendment to allow the e-cig exemption. She said it was important to her to find a compromise.

“As a council person, I don’t want to put people out of business," said Parker, (R) District 18. "But as a nurse, I also want to protect public health.”

On the other hand, some in the hookah business believe part of the ordinance will only harm their business. The amendment would require customers to smoke hookah outside. Hookah lounges would have until June 1, 2019, to make the necessary changes. But a hookah lounge owner and a hookah bar worker spoke to council members Wednesday to say the money it would take to make those changes could put them out of business.

Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, (D) District 14, attempted to propose another amendment to allow smoking hookah inside hookah establishments. But the amendment was not allowed to be discussed. Fowler hopes it will be brought up when the ordinance goes to the full council on May 11.

“I don’t understand why it’s OK to say, ‘Sorry, you have invested in your business, but we have decided with a stroke of a pen that you are out of business,’” Fowler said.

But over the past two years, and again on Wednesday, many concerns have been brought up over the potential public health risks from the secondhand smoke from hookah and other hookah-like products.

“We can’t tell them that they can’t do it,” said Councilwoman Vicki Welch, (D) District 13, in regards to smoking hookah. “But what we are doing is trying to protect the general public and our whole community ... that if they go to these places, they’re not breathing that into their lungs when they’re not even the ones smoking it.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer released this statement after the committee passed the ordinance:

“Improving our city’s health is a top priority for city government, and I’m pleased that an ordinance to add e-cigarettes to the city’s smoking ban has moved forward. This compromise by the Metro Council committee will help improve health by limiting second-hand smoke while also being mindful of vape and hookah businesses. I encourage the entire Metro Council to pass this important bill when it convenes on May 11 and I thank Councilwomen Barbara Shanklin and Vicki Welch for their leadership on this effort.”

The ordinance will go before Metro Council on May 11. You can read the entire ordinance below:

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