So many people showed up for the public hearing that Mayor Norm Archibald had to limit speaking to five minutes per person.
Many citizens expressed concern over the proposed ordinance, several testifying that e-cigarettes are the most effective way to help people quit smoking, an opinion backed up by the manager of Stogies Vapor located on 3909 S. 7th St. in Abilene.
Other citizens, along with the owner of 151 Vapes, expressed a belief that e-cigarettes pose a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, an opinion backed up by Dr. Peter Norton, medical director at the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District. Dr. Norton testified that there are fewer carcinogens in e-cigarettes than in regular cigarettes. A vapor manufacturer who took the stand first expressed it this way: "We are not saying they are safe," he said. "We are saying they are a safer alternative."
However, Dr. Norton, along with several citizens who were for the ban, brought up that there hasn't been any extensive research on the effects of e-cigarettes, prompting one citizen to argue that it was better that the council ban it now as a public safety precaution, then overturn the ban if conclusive evidence can be provided in future proving e-cigs are safe.
Several people argued for the ban, not only noting that the effects are unknown, but saying that e-cigarettes create an unpleasant atmosphere, testifying that they did not like having the vapor blown in their faces. One woman argued that they make a bad example for kids. Dr. Norton earlier expressed concern that e-cigs are sometimes marketed to non-smokers and kids.
A cardiologist who took the stand argued for the ban, saying that the chemical propylene glycol, which is vaporized in e-cigarettes, is not recommended for “fog machines.” He also argued that e-cigarettes contained heavy metals, and that those that contain nicotine leave about 20 percent of that nicotine in the air when exhaled. This, he said, posed a health risk for those with respiratory issues.
Others, however, argued that propylene glycol was safe when used in certain amounts. However, during the discussion, no agreement was reached on the exact amount.
Others simply asked for a middle ground. The owner of Stogies asked the council to “think outside the box,” and not simply ban e-cigarettes because they look like regular cigarettes. Others argued that whether to ban them should be up to individual establishments. Other citizens who took the stand argued that the problem might be “solved on a lower level,” and that “We don’t have a problem here. We created one.” One woman stated that it should be left up to the individual who would self-regulate based on common courtesy.
Following the end of the hearing, Mayor Norm Archibald expressed that he was glad to hear people testify that e-cigarettes have helped people stop smoking. The council iterated that the city was not interested in banning e-cigarettes from Abilene altogether; however, the Mayor said the greatest concern of the council was protecting public health, which was what the original smoking ordinance was designed to do.
After hearing from the citizens of Abilene, and taking into account that so much research still has to be done before any conclusive judgment can be made regarding the health risks of e-cigarettes, the council decided not to ban e-cigarettes from all public places according to the smoking ordinance. Instead, the council passed a prohibition of the sale to and use of e-cigarettes by minors under the age of 18, and specified that vendor assisted sales are required for the sale of e-cigarettes within the city of Abilene.
This goes into effect ten days from Sunday, July 27.
(Information from BigCountryHomepage.com)
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