A man uses a handheld vaporizer. (AFP/Getty Images file)

Lakewood might restrict e-cigs, vapes like tobacco

LAKEWOOD — Lakewood City Council will vote soon on whether to add electronic smoking devices to the ordinance that restricts smoking in public places.

Electronic cigarettes would join other smoking products that are banned from use in and around public places, including a 25-foot buffer around entryways.

Smoking would still be allowed at outdoor patios, such as at a restaurant or bar.

Council introduced the measure June 23 and will have a public comment session and final vote July 14.

City deputy attorney Janet Young said the proposal came about largely to protect public health. She said studies have shown chemicals are released into the air from the exhaled vapor — including nicotine, lead, acetone propanal, diacetin and triacitine.

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It’s also being done to facilitate uniform enforcement of smoke-free air laws, to reduce the potential for re-normalizing smoking where tobacco use is prohibited, and to address enforcement of the prohibition of public consumption of marijuana.

“You can’t tell what they’re vaping,” Young said. “You don’t know if they’re using hash oil or a nicotine-based substance, because it doesn’t emit an odor.”

Donna Viverette, the health education program supervisor at the Jefferson County Public Health Department, said research hasn’t established the long-term health impacts of e-cigs — or if they could be helpful in getting people who are hooked on smoking to quit.

“We do know that e-cigarette use increases the potential for lifelong addiction to nicotine, and they’re not without danger or harm,” Viverette said. “There’s also the modeling aspect. If kids see adults use them, they find that appealing.’

For Jamie Michelle, an employee at E Cig of Denver on Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, smoking used to mean lighting up and stepping outside. Now it’s as simple as turning on an e-cig and taking a few puffs anywhere — something she said saves time amid a busy schedule of school and work.

“They’re nothing like tobacco,” Michelle said. “There’s five ingredients in them, and they don’t smell, and they don’t impact people around you like second-hand smoke does.”

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not fully studied the effects of e-cigarettes, but in April the agency announced plans to extend its authority to put health warnings and potential age restrictions on new tobacco products like e-cigarettes.

Currently, Jeffco officials say the only cities in Colorado that have placed the devices under a tobacco ordinance are Durango and Edgewater. Commerce City, Fort Collins, Golden and now Lakewood are also considering similar measures.

“I believe it’s prudent for us (to pass the ordinance) because they’re not yet regulated by the FDA, and we don’t know what the effects are or even what ingredients are being used,” said Ward 2 Councilwoman Cindy Barroway. “If studies come back and say no harm, we can take another look.”

Austin Briggs: 303-954-1729, abriggs@denverpost.com

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