Advocates of e-cigarettes tout them safer alternatives to smoking: They deliver nicotine with no smoke and no smell.
But that hasn’t stopped some communities, most recently Louisville, from including e-cigarettes in their public smoking bans.
Now the Boulder City Council is considering two versions of a broad outdoor smoking ban, one that includes e-cigarettes and one that does not. The City Council holds a first reading and vote on the smoking ordinance Tuesday.
The council could adopt one version or both and advance the ordinance to a second reading on Jan. 20.
“Electronic cigarettes” usually contain a battery-operated heating element that vaporizes a solution containing nicotine. That vapor is then inhaled by the user. Unless the solution is flavored — which it often is — there is no odor.
The proposal presented to the City Council at a study session earlier this fall calls for both traditional tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes to be banned in all city parks, on multi-use paths, near bus stops, in the entire downtown business district, at Chautauqua Park and at the Flatirons Golf Course.
Boulder already has smoking bans on the Pearl Street Mall by ordinance and in an area stretching from Ninth Street and Canyon Boulevard to 17th Street and University Avenue by city manager’s rule.
Councilman George Karakehian asked for another version of the ordinance to be prepared that excluded e-cigarettes. He said Monday that he is genuinely undecided.
“If we say this is about second-hand smoke, then it doesn’t fly,” he said. “But if we say it’s about children, then maybe it does. I am undecided. It is a question of ‘what is our rationale?'”
Boulder County Public Health supports the e-cigarette ban. In material provided to the council, the health department pointed to research that indicates nicotine and other dangerous chemicals may be present in the vapor and raised concerns that more widespread use of e-cigarettes will lead to more teenagers becoming addicted to nicotine.
Sean Tanner, owner of Boulder Vapor House, which sells e-cigarettes and vaporizers, said that research was done on earlier generations of electronic cigarettes. The solution that contains the nicotine is now no more dangerous than toothpaste, he said.
Tanner said many people have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Unlike other cessation devices like patches or gum, e-cigarettes fulfill the ritual aspects of smoking. If e-cigarettes are allowed in public spaces, he said, people who left their desks or work stations for a smoke break may be more inclined to switch to the less harmful alternative.
Melynda Slaughter, who lives in Longmont and works in Boulder at the University of Colorado, said e-cigarettes have helped her quit smoking.
“I tried every non-smoking gimmick out there,” she said. “This is the only one I’ve managed to be successful with. I’m actualy weaning myself off it now.”
She said she was “flabbergasted” that the city would ban e-cigarettes in public.
“It’s not smoke,” she said. “It’s not interfering with anyone. You can’t detect it. If you’re going to be punished for both, why quit the one? That’s not my only reason for quitting, but it feels like I’m being punished either way.”
Dave Miller, of Boulder, also said e-cigarettes have helped him quit smoking.
“There’s no second-hand smoke so there’s no impact on second-hand people,” he said.
He cited a long list of things that are more offensive to the lungs or the nose that aren’t banned, from the stale beer smell that comes from some bars to car exhaust.
“We let people drink outside bars and restaurants,” he said. “Kids can walk down Pearl Street and see a weed shop. When we talk about protecting children, what are we talking about here?”
But Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said he sees the argument for including e-cigarettes.
“It’s a little bit of both,” he said, when asked if the e-cigarette ban was aimed at health or public perception. “But lots of regulations are a little bit of both. The science is unclear about whether there are materials coming off them that you wouldn’t want to be next to. I think we would also prefer that kids not see people smoking and not see that modeled, and especially in these public places where kids hang out, we don’t want people smoking.”
If you go
What: Boulder City Council
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
Info: To read the memo on the smoking ban and to see the rest of the agenda, go to bit.ly/1unkEZI