Elizabethtown tightened its grip Mon­day on smoking in public places after the city council approved the addition of electronic cigarettes to its no-smoking ordinance.

The first reading of the amendment to the ordinance, which passed in 2006, was May 21 — one week after Lincoln Trail District Health Department officials requested the council include e-cigarettes in the ordinance.

“We approached the council about banning e-cigs because they still contain toxic gases and tiny particles that irritate the eyes and lungs,” Lincoln Trail District Health Department Public Information Officer Donny Gill said. “Also, the vapor does contain nicotine and is addictive and contributes to cardiovascular problems.”

Gill said studies also have shown secondhand e-cigarette vapor is dangerous. He said the vapor contains gases that contribute to heart and lung disease. Gill said children exposed to the vapor over time can develop asthma, colds and eczema.

“The majority of the research has indicated that e-cigs are harmful to both the user and the bystander,” Gill said. “So, when people use these devices to get around the existing smoking laws, they are still putting the health of others at risk.

“E-cigs and vape devices are not a safer alternative to traditional smoking. Also, they are not approved as a method to quit smoking,” he added. “The vast majority of e-cig users also still use traditional cigarettes.”

The amended ordinance included a change in the definition of smoking. It now reads, “‘Smoking’ means inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation, in any manner or in any form. ‘Smoking’ also includes the use of an e-cigarette which creates a vapor, in any manner or in any form or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking in this Ordinance.”

The law prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, including workplaces, outside seating areas and within 15 feet of entrances, open windows and ventilation systems.

Council members have said the amendment was to clarify standards for the further protection of public health. Several council members believed e-cigarettes already were covered in the ordinance. The amendment is to solidify the ordinance they already have on book.

“Much like the smoking ordinance that was passed 12 years ago, the goal of the new ordinance is to improve the air quality in public places, including the workplace,” Gill said. “Science is showing that the affects of secondhand vapor and the affects of secondhand smoke are very similar.”

HMH Vice President and Chief Medical Offi­cer John Godfrey said he applauds the foresight of Elizabethtown City Council to expand the non-smoking ordinance to include vaping and e-cigarettes.

“Although these two alternatives to cigarettes appear harmless, vaping and e-cigarettes pose countless nicotine-related health concerns and toxicities,” he said.

“They are not a healthy replacement for smoking cigarettes,” God­frey added. “As the region’s health care leader, this is why HMH updated its system-wide Smoke and Tobacco-Free policy last year to include nicotine-containing vaping and e-cigarette products.”

Lincoln Trail District Health Department Director Sara Jo Best said one of the core principles of public health is to assure the health of the members of the community, and this ordinance helps do that.

“I’d like to thank the city council of Eliza­beth­town for acting quickly and updating their ordinance,” she said.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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