Council considering ban of e-cigarettes in public buildings

The Decatur City Council is considering banning the smoking of electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping, in public places such as restaurants and bars.

City Attorney Herman Marks introduced the change to the city's smoking ordinance for a first reading at Monday’s City Council meeting.

“We want to add electronic cigarettes because we found they’re a distraction and possibly a health issue,” Marks said.

Electronic cigarettes have become a popular but controversial alternative to cigarettes throughout the country. e-cigarettes use a battery-powered element to heat and vaporize a nicotine-laced liquid. The aerosol is then inhaled by the user.

In 2007, the City Council approved a smoking ordinance that bans the smoking of cigarettes and cigars in public places, including bars, restaurants, and most retail stores. Smoking is not allowed with 10 feet of any entrance. Businesses can set up outside patios where smoking is allowed.

Restaurant and bar owners and smokers initially protested the 2007 ordinance at multiple council meetings, but in recent years the topic has rarely been addressed at council meetings.

Councilman Billy Jackson, who served on the City Council that banned smoking, said he doesn’t have a problem with adding e-cigarettes to the banned list.

“I don’t think we should separate vaping (from smoking),” Jackson said.

Councilman Charles Kirby said “vaping needs to be controlled,” but he believes smoking in general should be an issue for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“They’ve kicked this can down the road for too many years,” Kirby said. “If they’re going to control tobacco, then they need to control e-cigarettes. This is a state issue.”

City Council President Paige Bibbee said she errs on the side of caution when it comes to the issue of vaping in public places. She pointed out that the research isn’t conclusive on how dangerous e-cigarettes are.

“I just want to wait a minute and just be smart on the issue,” Bibbee said. “I don’t want the city to get into a class action lawsuit 20 years from now because we allowed e-cigarettes.”

The ordinance would ban vaping in "public places," which are defined as "an enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted, including but not limited to, banks, bars, educational facilities, health care facilities, hotel and motel lobbies, laundromats, public transportation facilities, reception areas, restaurants, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail service establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters and waiting rooms."


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