City Council vs. e-cigarettes: Round one

e-cigarettePhoto used under a Creative Commons license 

A city council committee yesterday advanced a measure that would ban using electronic cigarettes or any such devices on buses or streetcars.

Public safety committee members also said they would consider suggestions of going farther in the future – adding such a ban to city law forbidding smoking in all public places except casinos and smoke shops.

The ordinance related to buses goes to the full city council for approval next week.

Mark Huffer, general manager of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, said the change is needed to make it clear electronic cigarettes are not allowable on buses.

Signs in them now forbid eating, drinking and smoking. But there have been disruptions, he said, after some electronic users contended the devices are not covered because they emit vapors, not smoke.

“We don’t want our drivers to have to distinguish between e-cigarettes and cigarettes,” Huffer said. “We want them to concentrate on driving.”

Donald Potts, associate professor at the UMKC School of Medicine, presented the case against electronic cigarettes:

They started about a decade ago in China and are spreading quickly in the United States, where the major tobacco companies are now involved.

The electronic models have not been on the market long enough to show if they are dangerous but they clearly increase the number of nicotine addicts.

They can be obtained easily over the Internet and children use them, attracted by more than 90 flavors nationwide.

They can also now be advertised on television, unlike cigarettes and smoking materials.

Advocates for electronic smoking argue it is better than using cigarettes and helps people stop smoking.

But Potts said that over 60 percent of those who use vapor models also use cigarettes. For the few using it to stop smoking, he said, nicotine patches work just as well.

The newer versions have refillable bottles of liquid that can kill small children if they drink them, Potts noted.

Dr. Rex Archer, city health department director, said there has been an increase in accidental poisonings in recent years caused by electronic cigarettes.

He also said that from 2011 to 2012, use of them  went from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent among 6th to 12th grade children.

For those ages six to 12, it went from 1.2 percent to 2.1 percent, Archer said.

Because of the “sneakiness of tobacco companies” Potts suggested the original version of the ordinance be changed from forbidding electronic smoking on buses and streetcars to forbidding using any device that simulates smoking.

That would prevent solar powered cigarettes or some other tobacco company dodge, he said.

The committee made that change and unanimously advanced the ordinance.

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