A new Tooele City ordinance passed Wednesday will ban e-cigarette use from public parks and other outdoor areas.
E-cigarettes, electronic devices that vaporize liquid nicotine to be inhaled by the user, will be treated like other tobacco products under the new ordinance, which the city council unanimously approved.
Smoking any cigarette, electronic or otherwise, will not be permitted outdoor on city properties such as parks, playgrounds, or sporting facilities. E-cigarettes will be permitted in places where exceptions for smoking are already in place, such as at Oquirrh Hills Golf Course and public parking areas.
“There is a time and a place, and it comes down to respect for a person,” said Councilwoman Debbie Winn before casting her vote in favor of the ordinance. “We’re not taking away the right for those who use it, just the place.”
Tooele City Attorney Roger Baker, who wrote the 95-page ordinance, identified five reasons to ban e-cigarettes from city parks. Use of e-cigarettes in parks contribute to e-cigarette marketing campaigns that target youth, he said. Additionally, he said, local residents have expressed that they felt e-cigarette use around others is discourteous, and there is no scientific consensus regarding whether secondhand vapors exhaled by the devices could negatively impact the public health.
Because e-cigarettes are as yet unregulated by the FDA, the liquids used with the device vary by manufacturer and product.
Baker said e-cigarettes also create confusion among both patrons and employees about whether or not smoking is permitted in city parks.
Other council members expressed concern about other drugs, such as spice, that can be used in the place of commercially supplied nicotine refills for e-cigarettes.
Tom Poyner, a Tooele City resident who spoke in favor of the ordinance at Wednesday night’s council meeting, said he was concerned about the message e-cigarette smokers sent when they smoked in front of children in public areas.
“The manufacturers of e-cigarette materials are more than happy to do all they can to make their products most appealing to our young people,” Poyner said in an email. “They are looking to their future and the future buyers of their products. I feel it is in our best interest to stop the exposure to this behavior now before it expands any further into our public places — places that should remain safe for our young people to grow and learn and become good citizens.”
As a past president of Tooele County Babe Ruth Baseball, Poyner said that when asked, e-cigarette smokers sometimes argued that they were not smoking cigarettes and did not need to leave the park.
However, others felt that the ordinance went too far in banning e-cigarettes in public parks city-wide.
In an email to the city council, Aaron Frazeir, the director of Utah Vapers and the state representative for The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, said:
“The Utah Vapers does support logical restrictions on use -— not due to the falsely perceived risk to exposure but for the soul purpose of ensuring the children in our state are not modeling behaviors seen…. I share in this concern but believe it can be a policy of the location to ban them without the city needing to step in and ban them city-wide in all public areas and walkways.”
His email and the materials he provided were later published with the ordinance.
The city council ultimately passed the ordinance, with council members echoing concern for the city’s youth and for the public health. Council Chairman Dave McCall said that although he disliked passing ordinances that banned behaviors, he saw the ordinance as little more than an extension of legislation that already bans cigarette use in public places.