CLINTON — Public officials are evaluating how the use of electronic cigarettes affect tobacco and smoking policies.
Less than a week after the city of Chicago voted to place the same restrictions on electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, Clinton County officials discussed its tobacco policy for county buildings. County Attorney Mike Wolf asked the Board of Supervisors on Monday if the current tobacco policy should be extended to include electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as electronic cigarettes.
"I've had several people say, 'What are we going to do about the e-cigarettes in the courthouse?'" Wolf said. "Well, if we're going to do something for the courthouse, we probably need to consider it for everybody."
Wolf outlined three concerns with allowing the electronic cigarettes. This included the effect the vapor might have on others, the appearance it generates in a closed space and the message it sends to youth.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating a vapor that is inhaled. In a recent Associated Press story, published in the Clinton Herald on Jan. 14, Respiratory Health Association President Joel Africk said e-cigarettes and their vapors have not been deemed safe. Wolf expressed concern about the possibility of second-hand nicotine exposure to those near electronic cigarette users.
Supervisor Brian Schmidt asked Wolf if some use these devices to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. County Auditor Eric Van Lancker said while the intent was to help with smoking cessation, there seems to be a worry that it could become a gateway to cigarettes.
"You want to encourage people that are trying to quit, so you don't want to put road blocks or stumbling blocks in their way," Supervisor Jill Davisson said. "But on the other hand, we're a county building where we've said these kind of habits or those kind of situations were not going to be tolerated on public property."
The board wondered if the city had created any policy on the subject. Clinton City Administrator Jessica Kinser said the city has not considered such a policy, but added that she may ask staff about their thoughts on the issue.
With a 45-4 vote in Chicago, aldermen barred the use of e-cigarettes in offices, indoor public areas and within a certain distance of building entrances. The decision also moved e-cigarettes to behind retail counters and made the sale of it prohibited to minors.
The board decided to wait on setting an electronic cigarette policy for Clinton County. The supervisors agreed to look into the issue more thoroughly.
"But it's going to come up. And people are asking, you know; security's asking if they see someone doing that (smoking an electronic cigarette), what should they do?" Wolf said. "And I think our response right now is we don't have a policy in place."