Tulare County Supervisors Debate E-Cigarette Classification

Depending upon with whom you talk, e-cigarettes are very safe or very dangerous. That debate broke out at the Tulare County Board of Supervisors July 21 meeting with the discussion of an ordinance change on smoking.

An e-cigarette is a device run on batteries that lights up at the end to look like a real cigarette. Some may contain liquid nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals. The cigarettes come in many flavors to attract smokers and non smokers.

The Tulare County Health Advisory Board made a presentation to the supervisors in order to amend two current county smoking ordinances. The first amendment would include e-cigarettes where ever traditional cigarettes are banned. The first reading of that amendment passed 3-2, with Supervisor Allen Ishida and Supervisor Mike Ennis against.

The second amendment would ban smoking, including e-cigarettes, from all public work areas and county parks. This change elicited the most vociferous objection from Ishida, who is a long-time smoker.

“This is a nanny move” he said. “It denies me my freedoms.”

Supervisor Pete Vander Poel, who was responsible for the formation of the Health Advisory Committee, said that the new ordinance is to protect the general public. He said, that he and his family have been forced to leave public places where they had to breathe in second-hand smoke. He also said, second hand smoke makes his “clothes smell like crap.”

Ishida, leaned forward in his chair and countered, “Then don’t sit in a smoking area.”

During the public hearing both those in favor and against e-cigarettes spoke. Those in favor claim that there is no science in treating e-cigarettes like a normal cigarette. They say that e-cigarettes are not detrimental to the health of smokers or those in close proximity who might breathe in the second-hand smoke.

Also called vaping, some e-cigarettes don’t contain nicotine, the dangerous and addictive substance found in traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes have also been attributed to aiding heavy smokers quit traditional cigarettes. Derek Bailey, manager at Visalia Vapes, said he used to be a two-pack a day smoker until he started vaping. Because of e-cigarettes, he has now quit traditional cigarettes and feels 100 times healthier, he said.

Karen Haught, a public health officer who sits on the Tulare County Health Advisory Board, claimed that e-cigarettes are just a way to circumvent the county and state smoking ordinances. She and two other members of the health board pointed out that even when e-cigarettes say they have no nicotine, they actually do. She said that e-cigarettes have 10 harmful chemicals, besides nicotine, considered to cause cancer or birth defects, and that the “smoke” or the aerosol coming out of the end of an e-cigarette contains benzene and formaldehyde, among other things.

Haught accused the industry of portraying e-cigarettes as healthy and attracting teens and even younger smokers. E-cigarette advertisements and websites do portray the device as a harmless pastime that could even promote health. On the website vapor4life the background photo is a spread of fruit on a beautiful, knotty wood table.

Some of the many flavors include banana split, orange crush, bubble gum and tutti frutti. The yummy gummy flavor is advertised with a picture of colorful gummy bears not aimed towards adult consumers.

While the first amendment passed, the second amendment did not. Both Ennis and Ishida felt the amended ordinance to ban smoking at all county parks went too far and would make people criminals for smoking. Neil Pilegard, head of the Tulare County Parks and Recreation Department, said that all studies point to the mental and physical benefits of being outdoors and exercising. He felt that the amended ordinance would ban smokers from county parks and keep parents who smoke from bringing their children to playgrounds.

Ennis and Ishida were in favor of the designated smoking areas already established in the county’s smoking ordinance and felt those areas protected smokers and non smokers’ rights. Supervisor Cox motioned that the amendment be revised and brought back at a later time. His motion passed 4-1 with Vander Poel voting against.


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