County Health to consider ordinance on e-cigarettes

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


The Board of Health discussed the possibility of having a countywide ordinance regulating the use of e-cigarettes on county property.

Washington County Public Health administrator Danielle Pettit-Majewski told the board she received a letter with an ordinance from Story County Board of Health prohibiting electronic smoking devices in public places. She also received an email from the National Institutes of Health talking about the popularity of these devices among teens.

?And so I wanted to bring this to your attention to see if you?re interested in promoting a similar ordinance here in Washington County,? she said. ?Additionally, I will share with you that I shared this with our director at the Iowa Public Health Association just so other boards are getting this information and [to hear] what conversations they?re having.?

Board member Jack Seward Jr. clarified that the board of health would pass the policy and then ask the county Board of Supervisors to pass the ordinance.

?Correct,? Pettit-Majewski said.

Board member Chris Grier asked Pettit-Majewski if they could pursue a similar ordinance to Story County where people are no longer allowed to use electronic smoking devices. She said that was correct, with the possibility of adding a penalty to it.

?Does that have to adopted by the city as well?? board member Dr. Trevor Martin asked.

Seward replied no.

?It would just be on county property, then,? Martin said.

This is something the board of health could share with communities in Washington County to see if they would be interested in that, Pettit-Majewski responded.

Seward read the ordinance passed in Story County further and said he was wrong before ? the ordinance does apply to the cities incorporated in the county and unincorporated cities in the county.

?So it would be a county law,? Seward said. ?At first glance I would not be in favor of something like this. I think it would be an extension of government and I don?t like that.?

He is OK with what the state law says regarding electronic smoking devices.

?What is the state law?? Washington County public health fiscal administrator Peggy Wood asked.

Seward said he didn?t know it directly other than it?s regulated vaping devices the same as ciggarettes and alcohol.

Pettit-Majewski said teens were using electronic smoking devices more and it was becoming a gateway drug. She thought this was something that was timely, especially since the use is rising in teens.

?You open yourself up to behaviors in adolescence that then become lifelong [issues],? she said.

Pettit-Majewski didn?t expect the board to make a decision but asked them if they would be interested in pursuing it further.

Grier asked Pettit-Majewski if there was any movement on a state level to ban use of electronic cigarettes indoors. She said no.

?I?m all for people not doing this around me and my kid ? stuff like that,? Grier said, ?but it does seem like if each county has to adopt an ordinance that seems cumbersome. It seems like that should be something promoted at the state level.?

Martin agreed with Grier. He said there isn?t enough research yet to define what the health effects are from secondhand smoke from electronic cigarettes. He said passing a county ordinance now would be too soon.

?Do you want me to do further investigation or is this something you don?t want me to pursue at this time?? Pettit-Majewski asked the board.

Grier said he would be curious to see if Story County has spoken with elected state officials about this topic.

Board member Connie Larsen said she would be curious to know if other counties are looking into passing an ordinance like Story County has.