Using e-cigarettes inside Eau Claire businesses could become illegal next month under an ordinance change the City Council will be considering.
A proposal listed for introduction on this week’s council agenda will be scheduled for a public hearing on Aug. 10 leading up to a vote on Aug. 11, based on the city’s usual procedure for approving ordinances.
A memo from the Eau Claire City-County Health Department declared that public health has improved in the last decade following the enactment of workplace smoking bans, but e-cigarettes pose a new danger.
“Allowing use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free places reintroduces toxins into clean air made possible by smoke-free policies, and sends the wrong message to the community, and especially youth, that these devices and the aerosol they produce are safe,” stated the memo.
When used, e-cigarettes emit an aerosol that may contain nicotine, ultrafine particles, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals, according to the health department.
The memo also cites studies on how nicotine in vaping chemicals can impact brain development in adolescents.
If approved, the ordinance change would add e-cigarettes and other devices used for vaping to the list of smoking products that people are prohibited from using in many public places.
The workplace smoking ban includes bars, restaurants, shops, theaters, meeting halls, hospitals, school grounds, government buildings, sports stadiums, city buses and common areas inside hotels and apartment buildings.
The few exceptions to the smoking ban are for Native American tribal ceremonies, hotel rooms reserved for smoking, private residences and private clubs.
The city of Eau Claire put its own workplace smoking ban in place in July 2008 — two years before the state adopted a similar prohibition.
While tobacco use has declined, e-cigarettes emerged.
A survey of high school students in Eau Claire County found that the use of e-cigarettes among local youth rose by 142% between 2015 and 2019.
Last year, a rash of nationwide cases of pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette use put pressure on the vaping industry. One of the results of that was a federal ban earlier this year that ended the sale of flavored vaping products that were seen as a way the devices appealed to children.
Lieske Giese, health department director, said the local vaping ban proposal had been authored in March, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit and consumed the time of public health officials.
While COVID-19 continues to be an overwhelming topic, she said health officials along with the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention wanted to push forward in addressing e-cigarettes.
“The vaping issue has not gone away,” Giese said.