E-cig use in public may be prohibited


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Electronic cigarette users may have to join tobacco users when it comes to prohibited use of the devices on city-owned property, depending on a vote by the Iowa City City Council today.

If the council decides to pass the resolution, its next step could be extending the ban’s scope in the coming months.

Rick Dobyns said the Council is trying to determine if e-cigarettes could fall under the Iowa Smokefree Air Act, meaning that their use would be banned in places such as restaurants and clubs.

City staff first raised the issue informally at the Sept. 2 council meeting, under the recommendation of Dobyns and Director of Johnson County Public Health Doug Beardsley.

Dobyns said he supports the move to ban e-cigarettes on city-owned property, but he would, “entertain alternatives rather than enforcement for the second component, such as voluntary measures.”

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution earlier this summer that covered county-owned property.

The vote ended 3-2, with Neuzil and Supervisor John Ethridge voting against it.

The Cedar Rapids and Coralville City Councils have yet to formally raise the matter of banning e-cigarettes.

Coralville Councilor Jill Dodds said she has spoken with Dobyns about the issue but said the council had not discussed it.

Cedar Rapids Councilor Monica Vernon said although there is nothing pending as of now, she has spoken with local health groups to gather information.

The process of limiting the public use of e-cigarettes in Johnson County and Iowa City began late last year with Beardsley.

He and his staff began doing research and collecting data in the fall of 2013 to figure out the best way to approach what he considered to be a potentially big problem.

“The tobacco industry wants to renormalize the smoking behavior [with e-cigarettes],” Beardsley said. “I think that would be a huge step back in the progress we’ve made in improving the health of the population to start letting that creep back in.”

Beardsley said he thought the council responded enthusiastically to the presentation he gave, and it was the council’s idea to look into extending the ban to a citywide ordinance.

“We weren’t looking for that when we went in, but we certainly welcome their interest and their initiative on that,” he said.

He said he also plans to meet with other Johnson County cities, such as Coralville, North Liberty, and Swisher, but as of right now, they don’t have the available resources or time.

Beardsley said helping Johnson County with this e-cigarette ban is important to him because the leading cause of premature death and disability in the United States, and Iowa, is tobacco.

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