Lee’s Summit may join cities extending anti-smoking regulations to include electronic cigarettes and complete bans on tobacco in public parks.
The city already limits smoking inside buildings open to the public under the Indoor Clean Air Act passed by a referendum. Tougher rules were discussed recently by two city boards.
The city Parks and Recreation Board has the power to set rules on tobacco use in parks. It could make a decision at its Sept. 24 meeting.
The Lee’s Summit Health Advisory Board eventually could make a recommendation to the City Council. It seems headed in that direction.
Steve Salanski, chair of the health advisory board, said there is growing worry about the effects of substituting e-cigarettes for smoking tobacco.
Overland Park recently amended its smoking ordinance to include electronic cigarettes, which manufacturers pormote as devices to help people stop smoking.
E-cigarettes use a battery-powered atomizer to create an aerosol containing nicotine for people to inhale. The nicotine is contained in liquid loaded into the device.
“Vaping” results in trace exposure to toxic chemicals.
The long-term effect of secondhand exposure or consumption by e-cigarette users isn’t understood because the products are relatively new, said Salanski, a physician.
“There is no evidence about how much it takes to create disease 20 years from now,” Salanski said.
He said researchers have noted increased use by young people who’ve never smoked, and there’s concern that might lead them to use tobacco.
Nick Edwards, an assistant to the city manager for Lee’s Summit, said some cities have determined that smoking ordinances already cover e-cigarettes. He said he would ask the city attorney for an opinion on Lee’s Summit’s regulations.
“If not, I certainly think we need to move forward with it,” said Judy Schmoeger, a health advisory board member.
Critics of e-cigarettes also contend they are being marketed to young people with flavors like chocolate, bubble gum or fruit.
Defenders of the product respond that adults like those flavors, too, and that the products are for adults to use in lieu of smoking and its proven hazards.
Ken Dyke owns Vaper’s Corner, a Lee’s Summit company, which wholesales e-cigarettes and sells products on the Internet.
“It’s a lot cleaner than smoking, but I think people should have manners and shouldn’t make people smell whatever you’re vaping,” Dyke said about possible regulation. “It’s kind of a tossup to me. It probably wouldn’t help my industry.”
E-cigarettes don’t emit a trail of smoke as cigarettes do. They’re activated when a person draws a breath through them.
“You get worse fumes coming out of a car going past you,” Dyke said. “I’ve seen many, many customers completely stop smoking. ... I really see this as a benefit to people.”
Smoking is already limited in Lee’s Summit parks, but the park board is looking at a complete ban.
The park board will probably also look at e-cigarettes, although it hasn’t discussed them specifically, said Parks Administrator Tom Lovell.
The department has been watching the trends for smoking rules for about a decade since allowing designated smoking areas at Legacy Park sports venues.
Chewing tobacco also is becoming notorious for its health risks, Lovell said.
Among alternatives, the park board could keep current rules, or go to smoke-free parks or tobacco-free parks. Or tobacco could be restricted to parking lots.
“Then people wouldn’t have to leave the system if they want to smoke,” Lovell said.