City to consider restrictions on e-cigarettes


Tara Muncaster uses an e-cigarette inside Maude's while playing Battleship with her daughter Vivionn Muncaster, 11, on Feb. 13 in Gainesville.

Elizabeth Hamilton/The Gainesvil
Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.

Gainesville may follow Alachua County's lead in banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and their use in nonsmoking areas.

Facts

IF YOU GO

The Public Safety Committee meets at 3 p.m. on Feb. 26 in the Roberta Kline conference room at City Hall.

The County Commission in December approved the restrictions on the so-called e-cigarettes, which do not contain tar or smell like traditional cigarettes.

The county ordinance only affects unincorporated areas of Alachua County. Since Gainesville is incorporated, the City Commission must decide on a similar ordinance.

“It's up to local government to put our cowboy hats and boots on and go to (work) protecting folks who don't want these things in indoor places,” Thomas Harrington of Tobacco Free Florida, said at a Dec. 19 City Commission meeting.

He cited Mitchell Zeller, director of the federal Food and Drug Administration, who called the e-cigarette market the “wild, wild west” because the agency knows so little about the product.

At that meeting, Mayor Ed Braddy forwarded the matter to the city's Public Safety Committee, which meets next week. The committee will decide whether to recommend that the City Commission approve a similar measure.

The county ordinance, which Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson advocated for, banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, displaying the devices where they can easily be stolen, and their use in places where smoking cigarettes is prohibited.

Assistant City Manager Paul Folkers said he expects the public safety meeting to mirror previous discussions on the issue.

Comments at the City Commission meeting mostly addressed the use of e-cigarettes -- or vaping -- where smoking is prohibited. Most of the speakers agreed to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors and behind store counters.

E-cigarettes are unregulated by the FDA, except for those marked for therapeutic purposes. Preliminary research hasn't yielded a consensus on the dangers or benefits of using them.

Cartridges contain a mixture of liquid nicotine and propylene glycol, which creates the vapor cloud effect. The ingredients concerned local resident Kali Blount, who spoke at the December city meeting.

“Since you don't want your household pets to lick it [propylene glycol] off the driveway, why do you want people blowing it in your face?” Blount said. “That's antifreeze.”

Research shows variances in the chemicals used, not only from manufacturer to manufacturer but also within the same manufacturer's product, said Kathy Nichols, associate director of the University of Florida Area Health Education Centers Program.

The local e-cigarette distribution center Ovale, at 3550 SW 34th St., posted seven signs on the door and around the store warning minors not to enter the building.

Distributors cannot legally advertise the devices as a way to quit smoking, but Brandon Crow, the general manager at Ovale, said he can't ignore his customers' feedback. Longtime smokers who switch to e-cigarettes tell him they're able to taste food and smell again, he said.

Aaron Messmer, a 26-year-old Ovale regular, started smoking cigarettes when he was about 13 years old. He built up to two or three packs a day. Now that he's vaping, he said he smokes at most two cigarettes per day.

Cigarettes taste disgusting to him now, but the e-cigarettes smell nice, he said. They don't leave an odor, ash or butts, so vaping should be allowed indoors, he said.

“Obviously, regulations do need to be in place,” said Crow. “We just hope those can be done in such a way to not harm the potential benefits of what e-cigarettes could provide to the public.”

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