Supervisors add e-cigs to smoke ban

BY KRISTEN BARON | JUNE 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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Smoke or vapor — it’s all the same in Johnson County.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors passed a motion last week that will prohibit the use of alternative-tobacco products — which includes electronic cigarettes — on Johnson County property. The motion passed with a 3-2 vote.

Supervisor Chairman Terrence Neuzil and Supervisor John Etheredge voted against the proposal. Both had pushed to revise some elements of it, which could have switched their votes. As it stands, they believe that the amendment is too restrictive, Neuzil said.

“If you could smoke [electronic cigarettes] outside, then we would have voted yes,” Neuzil said.

However, he believes that all forms of tobacco products should not be available for use indoors.

The precursor to this ban was the Iowa Smokefree Air Act, which was passed in the spring of 2008.

The act banned smoking and the use of tobacco products in nearly all public places.

Supervisor Janelle Rettig said no matter what the tobacco products are named, they still release chemicals.

“The problem is this industry is changing names of these products like every day,” she said. “There are a variety of ways they call them, but they are still putting out vapors and carcinogens in some way.”

However, not all people believe that electronic cigarettes are as harmful as traditional tobacco products.

“It’s America; you can be as stupid as you want to be,” said Iowa City resident Erin McCuskey, who noted that she does not mind when she sees people using electronic cigarettes both indoors and outdoors.

In an Iowa Department of Public Health press release from earlier this year, the department determined that electronic cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes and urged policymakers to take the same standpoint.

Among the Board of Health’s main concerns was the number of toxic substances found in e-cigarette vapor, as well as the allure to youths. According to the board’s press release, the bright packaging attracts a younger audience, and they could pick up a smoking habit while believing that e-cigarettes are harmless.

Earlier this year, Ryan Hayslett opened an electronic cigarette store, Black and Gold Vapors. He said that he doesn’t think his business will be affected by the supervisors’ decision.

“They’re attacking the e-cigarette industry without any scientific backing,” Hayslett said. “They’re treating us guilty until proven innocent.”

Hayslett admits that from the research he has read, electronic cigarettes do contain harmful chemicals in the vapor they produce but not a large enough amount to do any true harm.

Electronic cigarettes still contain the addictive nicotine found in regular cigarettes, and they have yet to win FDA approval. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence claiming that e-cigarettes have helped people quit smoking.

Hayslett, after trying everything from gum to patches to quit smoking, finally kicked his habit with e-cigarettes. He hasn’t smoked in two years, and tries to help customers down the same path.

“I wish they wouldn’t criminalize us before knowing the facts,” he said.

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