E-Cigarettes could be included in Columbus smoking ordinance

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- Columbus city officials are considering a request to expand the city’s smoking ban ordinance to include e-cigarettes.

Officials at Columbus Regional Health are asking the city council to add language to add e-cigarettes to the city’s current smoking ordinance.  The request came after recent data showing a high number of young people using e-cigarettes, or vaping.

Kylee Jones, with Healthy Communities at Columbus Regional Health, says while tobacco smoking rates are down nationwide, e-cigarette use is skyrocketing.  A recent poll showed 29-percent of high school seniors at Bartholomew County Schools reported using e-cigarettes.

“A lot of it is the way that they’re designed and the flavors,” Jones said.  “There’s over 15,000 flavors of e-juices.”

While vaping is often marketed as a smoking cessation method, Jones says e-cigarettes still deliver addictive nicotine and other chemicals that can be harmful.

“It reaches your brain quicker than what heroin or cocaine would,” Jones said.  “And the flavorings add different chemicals to it that can harm your lungs.”

The current smoking ordinance in Columbus bans tobacco smoking in all workplaces, but goes beyond state law by prohibiting smoking in bars, taverns and private clubs.  While banning e-cigarettes wouldn’t affect teens, Jones says it would provide the right example for youth.

“By adding this into our ordinance, we’re setting the tone,” Jones said.  “We’re setting the example for the youth, saying this is not okay.  This is not healthy.”

Stacy Clark, a bartender at Garage Pub & Grill in downtown Columbus says her establishment currently allows people to vape as long as other patrons don’t have a problem with it.  She says she’s not opposed to banning e-cigarettes, but it would require some changes.

“I guess we add no smoking and no vaping to signage,” Clark said.  “And to those people we have let vape, they can no longer vape.”

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop says he supports the idea of adding e-cigarettes to the city’s smoking ordinance.

“My initial reaction was I was glad to see that Columbus Regional Health was taking a proactive view with regard to health in the community,” Lienhoop said.

He says the city’s ordinance committee and officials at Columbus Regional Health are studying the idea in order to draft appropriate language for a proposal.  That information includes input from businesses that would be affected by the change.

“To do some polling, to gather some data from some of the area businesses so that we begin to understand the affect that this might have on them,” Lienhoop said.

Lienhoop expects the ordinance review committee to examine the issue through the month of July.  He hopes to see a proposal brought before the city council some time in August.

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