Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall says the council's new smokefree and vape-free policy is about education and should not be seen as punitive.
He and other councillors defended the district's new Smokefree and Vapefree Outdoor Areas Policy after councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan called it the "dumbest decision this council has made".
She was out of town when the council added vaping to its updated policy last month and used Tuesday's council meeting to have a belated dig at it.
The policy designates public spaces where people will be encouraged not to smoke or vape but it is not enforceable.
Ms Baker-Hogan said council should be focused on reducing cigarette smoking and vaping was one way to do that.
"I hate the look of that stuff but all the research is showing that it is reducing smoking by up to 95 per cent," she said.
"I read about being bold and brave and I read about our leading edge strategy but this is not leading.
"A small group of well meaning people have convinced this council to do something that only sounds good."
But councillor Kate Joblin said Ms Baker-Hogan's figures of reducing smoking by up to 95 per cent was "simply not correct".
"I do need to rebuke some of what Philippa's suggesting," she said.
"If you've been involved in health boards and things you'll understand that there's different studies that come out that might disagree with each other."
Mrs Joblin referred to a letter to the Chronicle from Whanganui Tobacco Advisory Group's John McMennamim who wrote that adding vaping to council's policy was to "acknowledge that vaping is not health-risk free. Rather, a smoke and vape-free spaces policy supports the work of health services by encouraging the best option for good health".
Meanwhile, Mr McDouall said the council had taken its cue from medical professionals and those who worked in the field in making public spaces vape-free.
"So I'm proud to endorse what is an educative not punitive policy for our CBD," he said.
"Sure it might be one in 20 as bad as smoking but it affects people none the less with oral cancers and other health disabilities."
Mr McDouall said the policy was about education.
"It's not a bylaw, you're not going to be slapped with a vaping ticket. And what we're not doing, with vaping in particular, is ignoring the fact that it assists smoking cessation.
"What we don't want is for this to be normalised, the fact the you're taking hot stuff into your mouth and expelling the vapour... so that the very next step is cigarettes.
"There's very little scientific evidence about that, it's only anecdotal. But equally a lot of the push back we're getting was anecdotal."