When a downtown Franklin restaurant owner sees a customer pull out an e-cigarette and take a puff, he keeps his eyes on the other diners around.
If they don’t have an issue with it, Triple Play BBQ co-owner Ron Dwenger doesn’t, either.
But if you go a few doors down to Greek’s Pizzeria and Tapp Room, vaping and e-cigarettes aren’t allowed inside.
For restaurant owners in Franklin, the decision of whether to allow vaping is up to them. The city does not have a ban on the devices indoors and in public places like Greenwood does. But some say whether to allow it can be a tough decision to make. In fact, about five business owners have called the county health department to ask what they should do if someone uses an e-cigarette inside their building.
Local health leaders said the city should follow the example of Greenwood and include vaping and e-cigarettes in the city-wide smoking ban that was approved in 2006. Currently, the ban only includes cigarettes, cigars and pipes, so that means people could still smoke an e-cigarette inside restaurants, public buildings or parks.
The Greenwood city council amended their rules last year. And in 2015, four tickets were issued by the Greenwood Police Department for smoking in a public place. One of those citations was specifically for vaping, according to the police department’s records.
Vapes and e-cigarettes typically contain lower amounts of nicotine than traditional cigarettes or cigars. But the fine particles in the smoke could still pose a danger to others in restaurants or other buildings. Using vapes or e-cigarettes inside creates an indoor quality air issue, said Bob Smith, environmental health specialist with the Johnson County Health Department.
In addition, seeing people vape in an establishment where smoking isn’t allowed can be confusing, especially for children and teenagers, said Nancy Voris, coordinator of Tobacco-Free Johnson County. If children see vaping is still allowed in a place where smoking is banned, that could allow them to think it’s OK to use e-cigarettes, she said.
“The biggest thing is the modeling,” Voris said. “Take it back a couple generations, everybody thought smoking was OK.”
As of now, Franklin officials are not considering an amendment to the smoking ban, said Mayor Joe McGuinness.
City council members Ken Austin and Richard Wertz want to see more research on e-cigarettes before making a decision, they said.
“I definitely think it should be reviewed and looked at hard,” Wertz said.
City council member Steve Barnett thinks restaurant owners should make their own rules on the devices.
“I haven’t really seen a problem with it in Franklin,” Barnett said.
But health officials said restaurant owners want guidance on how to deal with the devices. In the last year, about five restaurant owners have called the county health department to ask if e-cigarettes or smoking is allowed in their business, Smith said.
Greek’s Pizzeria and Tapp Room has banned the use of vapes or e-cigarettes inside the restaurant.
“I personally wouldn’t want to be dining next to others who are vaping,” owner Jason Tapp said. “I’d rather err on the side of what probably the majority of the public would want to see.”
Tapp does not see people who try to vape inside the restaurant on a daily basis, but he does have a handful of people who try, he said. Once an employee addressed the issue with the five or so people who have tried smoking inside, they have complied to the rules without any problem, Tapp said.
“We just don’t allow it,” Tapp said.
Dwenger hasn’t taken a firm stance yet on whether to allow vaping or not at Triple Play BBQ, he said.
“It’s confusing how you are supposed to approach that,” Dwenger said.
A few of his regulars at the restaurant vape, but it hasn’t caused an issue with other customers, Dwenger said. Usually, his customers who do regularly vape or use an e-cigarette try to be discreet about it, he said.
But if another customer did say the smoking bothered them, Dwenger would be more than willing to tell the person to stop, he said.
“I do think it always crosses my mind because I wonder how our other guests view that,” Dwenger said. “My concern is always more for how our other guests feel.”