Tooele considers ban on e-cigarette smoking in public places
Health • Advocates of vaporizers say the devices are safe for smokers and bystanders.
Published: August 7, 2013 09:02AM
Updated: August 6, 2013 07:04PM

The Tooele City Council is considering a ban on e-cigarette smoking in public parks and other gathering places, based on concerns that they contain chemicals that could be toxic to people in the vicinity of the smoker.

The proposal is scheduled to be discussed Wednesday by the council at a 5 p.m. work session and possibly voted on at a 7 p.m. business meeting.

A city ordinance prohibits smoking within 25 feet of “outdoor places of public access” including public playgrounds, play pits, sporting areas, children and animal venues, gathering places, concession stands and pathways. (The ordinance specifies that smoking is allowed at the Oquirrh Hills Golf Course, in public parking areas and at other designated areas at such venues.)

Proposed amendments to the outdoor smoking ordinance would add e-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes, to the definition of “tobacco product” and using e-cigarettes to the definition of “smoking.”

Those definitions come from the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act, which restricts smoking in enclosed places of business and other service-related activities where the public has general access.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn a liquid with nicotine into vapor, which is inhaled by the user. Some smokers say using these vaporizers have helped them reduce their smoking or quit altogether.

But some elected officials were concerned after seeing attendees at the Fridays on Vine concerts in City Park smoking e-cigarettes, according to Tooele City Attorney Roger Baker. Those worries prompted the proposed amendments.

The Food and Drug Administration has said because e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, there is no way of knowing whether they are safe and how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled. The agency also has said it is developing a rule to regulate e-cigarettes the same way it regulates regular cigarettes.

Aaron Frazier, director of Utah Vapers, counters that studies have shown there is no detectable amounts of toxic or carcinogenic substances produced by e-cigarettes. Utah Vapers — some e-cigarette users describe themselves as “vapers” instead of “smokers” — says it is a consumer advocacy group that focuses on tobacco-harm reduction.

“To ban something on perception or perceived harm is a bit of a knee jerk reaction,” Frazier said.

Others are in favor of the ban in public outdoor locations, including Tooele County health officials. Wade Mathews, county spokesman, noted that the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act treats e-cigarettes the same as regular cigarettes.

“In light of that, Tooele County does support Tooele city enhancements to the ordinance that include e-cigarettes,” Mathews said.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

Source: Food and Drug Administration

What’s next

The Tooele City Council is slated to discuss a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking e-cigarettes in public parks, playgrounds and gathering places at a 5 p.m. Wednesday work session. Council members also might vote on the proposal at a business meeting that follows at 7 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public and will be held at City Hall, 90 N. Main St.