City Council ponder e-cigarettes


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The Iowa City City Council decided Tuesday it would try to quickly move forward on a resolution regarding electronic cigarettes and other vapor-releasing devices.

Although nothing formal was decided, there was broad council support for moving forward to stop the use on city property and potentially Iowa City restaurants as well.

The three options potentially discussed were to not regulate e-cigarettes, ban the devices on all city property covered by the Iowa Smokefree Air Act, or extend ban to all other places covered under the Smokefree Air Act.

The council heard a presentation from Doug Beardsley and Susan Vileta of Johnson County Public Health, which covered the potential dangers and unknowns of the devices.

Beardsley said that no regulation from the FDA is just one of the concerns.

“We were so far behind the tobacco curve, we shouldn’t be behind on this,” Beardsley said.

City Councilor Kingsley Botchway said Iowa City needs to be advanced about things.

“Iowa City is a progressive city and needs to get ahead,” he said. ”You don’t want to do nothing.”

Councilor Rick Dobyns, a family physician, said although he hasn’t heard anything from the community about a problem with e-cigarettes he approves moving forward quickly.

“Of anyone on the council, I would expect I’d hear first, but I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “If we did nothing for a few years, [e-cigarettes] will still come.”

Dobyns said a resolution could be in front of councilors within one to two months, and a full restaurant ban would be further out, possibly at the beginning of 2015.

Among Beardsley’s other concerns are the way e-cigarettes are advertised; Vileta called the advertisements right out of the playbook of old tobacco companies.

Vileta said the biggest concern is that the use of electronic cigarettes has tripled among middle- and high-school students, citing a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The councilors decided nothing formally, but they informally agreed to quickly move in banning the devices from all city-owned property and potentially to local restaurants.

Botchway said he was in huge favor of the full regulation; just city property at first and gauging possibilities on further resolutions would be fine with him.

Patrick McBreen, a manager at the Airliner, said e-cigarettes haven’t been a problem and the establishment doesn’t have a set-in-stone policy. He said a lot of it is commonsense, people can’t smoke cigarettes in the restuarnat, so they can’t smoke e-cigarettes.

McBreen, a former smoker, has now transitioned to the use of e-cigarettes.  He said banning them indoors wouldn’t be a problem, but with an outdoor ban, officials should be careful, because the devices allow people to use them as an aid to quitting.

“It wouldn’t really matter if they banned them,” McBreen said.

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