Advocates for a smoke-free Kokomo celebrated another victory last week as the Howard County Commissioners voted to add e-cigarettes to the county government’s own smoke-free workplace ordinance.
It was a move applauded by Shirley Dubois, coordinator for Howard County Tobacco-Free.
“Thanks to Commissioners Tyler Moore, Brad Bray and Paul Wyman for including electronic smoking devices like e-cigarettes in the County government’s own smoke-free ordinance, which eliminates use by all county employees and visitors in their buildings,” Dubois said. “This is a great step in the right direction for creating a healthier community for all Howard County residents.”
“The commission’s decision recognizes the dangers that scientists and the public health community already recognize regarding the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products,” she said.
According to opponents of the e-cigarette ban, though, the science is not only far from settled and some studies indicate the vapor-based devices may actually be helpful.
“I smoked for 35 years,” said Jeff Lamberson, owner of Kokomo Pure Vapors, located on East Markland Avenue. “The day I picked up an e-cig was the day I stopped. There are four ingredients in the vapors we carry: nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and food-grade flavoring. An OSHA study demonstrated that the propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin actually absorb airborne contaminants and can actually improve air quality in a closed room.
“Now nicotine is the ingredient everyone will point to,” Lamberson continued. “But nicotine is not a carcinogen, and since we do not burn it, there is not a second hand danger associated with it.”
Despite Lamberson’s and other e-cig proponents protestations, the local momentum seems to be on the side of the bans.
“There are a lot of businesses including e-cigarettes in their non-smoking policies because of the new FDA rulings on May 5th,” DuBois said. “We are learning that the products are not a safe alternative to smoking and are not regulated so we do not know what ingredients are in the nicotine liquid cartridges.
“We do know there have been accidents such as an e-cig exploding and reports of children being poisoned. Also, they are not approved to be used as a cessation device, so one of the oft-argued benefits is not a benefit at all.”
As DuBois referenced, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in May that it will be extending its authority to include e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. Starting in August of this year, the FDA will apply and enforce key provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act as it relates to the sales, marketing and manufacturing of e-cigarettes.
Commissioner Paul Wyman said the decision was made with a very simple goal in mind.
“The commissioners want to make sure we provide a healthy and safe work environment,” Wyman said. “This was the natural next step in accomplishing that goal.”
The Howard County commissioners’ actions follow the lead of several others on this issue. Currently, nine states and hundreds of communities have prohibited e-cigarette use in the same places where smoking is already prohibited.
In addition, the American Lung Association advocates the prohibition of e-cigarettes in worksites and public places, and supports including e-cigarettes under smoke-free laws with other tobacco products.
“We have no city or county law that adds e-cigarettes to our smoke-free laws as cities like Indianapolis and South Bend, as well as Hancock County have already done,” added Dubois. “I’m hopeful that by setting this example, more employers and governments will want to protect all of our workers from all tobacco products in the workplace.
“I applaud the Howard County Commissioners for making the right decision to further protect their workers and to help create healthier communities; and I am hopeful that one day ALL workers and residents of Howard County will breathe clean, smoke-free air.”