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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local County Bans Electronic Cigarettes At County Buildings; Vehicles

County Bans Electronic Cigarettes At County Buildings; Vehicles

Example of an electronic cigarette, bottle of e-liquid and additional fluid tank.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved an amendment to existing smoking prohibitions to include electronic e-cigarettes during their Monday November 18, meeting.
According to Beth Schrader, Strategy and Policy Manager for the County, electronic cigarettes are battery powered products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals to the user through a vapor inhaled by the user.
Electronic cigarettes are generally designed to look like and to be used in the same manner as conventional cigarettes. A vapor is produced rather than smoke from traditional tobacco cigarettes and is inhaled and exhaled in the same manner.
Schrader explained the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes and given the potential risks posed to users and unknown and unquantifiable risk of adverse affects on others, "staff is recommending that e-cigarettes be treated similarly to tobacco related products."
She said the ordinance amendment will prohibit use of e-cigarettes in County owned and controlled vehicles and buildings, including within fifty feet of any public entrance to such structures. The amendment to the existing prohibition of smoking in County buildings will add language to expressly include any area within fifty feet of a public entrance to such structures. The fifty feet measurement would make the County ordinance consistent with the Board of Health rule in effect at the Health Department.
At its November 6th, meeting the Board of Health endorsed the ordinance.
Violations of the prohibition are subject to a civil citation of $100.00 per offense. The penalty must be paid within 20 days or the fine can be recovered as a debt but in no case shall penalties lead to criminal sanctions. County employees are also subject to sanctions or discipline set forth in the County's personnel policies, rules and ordinances.
Schrader said the fifty-foot zone creates a bubble area where citizens will not have to walk through smoke in order to access County services.
She said the change is in response to a rise in the number people using e-cigarettes and employees have requested information on using them in their offices and at their desks.
She said, "It certainly will not improve indoor air quality. And there are concerns in regards to the fact there is no data to prove it is safe to second hand folks exposed to the vapor that is released."
She said if data is presented at a later date showing it is safe, then the rules could be changed.
The same rules already apply to chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products.
Schrader said an amendment to the County's personnel policy will be brought to the Board for approval later this year.
Signs will be posted and an educational campaign will be provided to alert the public.
County Commissioner Beth Dawson said, "Our Health Board passed a resolution in July based on the recommendations of the National Associations of County and City Health Officials who had also adopted a policy urging the FDA to enact strict regulations overseeing the sale and use of e-cigarettes and to conduct further research. I believe there is still a lot of information to be researched and a lot of folks are not sure about the long-term affects or the short-term affects."
Dawson made a motion to approve the requested amendments. Commissioner Jonathan Barfield seconded the motion and said there are many flavors of e-cigarettes that he doesn't want to smell and prefers clean air.
Chairman Woody White said the change only applies to County buildings and vehicles and not to homes or businesses.
The Board voted unanimously.
According to the FDA, Electronic Cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals.  They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.
Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks.
The FDA's website states that as the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing:
• whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use,
• how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or
• if there are any benefits associated with using these products.
The FDA states, "Additionally, it is not known if e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death."
Currently, e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).  The FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) currently regulates:
• cigarettes,
• cigarette tobacco,
• roll-your-own tobacco, and
• smokeless tobacco.
FDA has stated its intent to issue a proposed rule that would extend FDA’s tobacco product authorities to products that meet the statutory definition of “tobacco product" which would include e-cigarettes.
According to the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) in a release issued earlier this month, "Several weeks ago, the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products submitted a set of proposed regulations on other tobacco products to the Office of Management and Budget for review prior to being released to the public. These new proposed tobacco regulations are likely to cover cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah tobacco, and/or electronic cigarettes. The review of the proposed regulations by the Office of Management and Budget is a requirement before any proposed regulations are published."
According to NATO, "At this time, the extent of the proposed regulations is not known and will not be known until the regulations are actually released. Once the new FDA proposed regulations are published, federal law requires a period of usually 60 days to allow the public to submit comments about the proposed regulations regarding the impact of the regulations and suggest any changes to the proposed restrictions. Then, the FDA will review all of the comments, make any changes to the regulations that the agency deems appropriate, and publish the final tobacco regulations. There is no specific timetable for the FDA to review the public comments and issue final regulations."
NATO says they will issue a report summarizing the proposed restrictions when the regulations are published.
According to the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), a group that lobbies for the electronic cigarette industry, states that, "Any substance containing nicotine is not 100% safe, but electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco; a carcinogenic ingredient and they do not produce smoke. numerous studies support that an overwhelming majority of tobacco related deaths are a result of the smoke produced and inhaled by users, not nicotine."
To the question do e-cigarettes cause cancer just like regular cigarettes? SFATA explains, "The FDA discovered trace amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines in e-cigarettes, which are known to cause cancer with high exposure. The amounts found were far too low to be definitively labeled as cancer-causing. An e-cigarette contains nearly the same trace levels of nitrosamines as the FDA-approved nicotine patch and about 1,300 times less nitrosamines than a traditional cigarette."