The Olathe City Council is considering adding electronic cigarettes to the city’s smoking ban.
At its meeting Tuesday evening, the council attempted to include e-cigarettes in the city’s Indoor Clean Air Ordinance, meaning the devices would be prohibited from being used in public places.
E-cigarettes are electronic or battery-powered vaporizers that simulate tobacco smoking.
The council voted 3-2 to make the inclusion. Later in the meeting, however, city staff informed the council that the change actually required at least four yes votes to be valid.
In two weeks, the council will vote on the issue again. The upcoming vote is expected to include councilmen Wes McCoy and Jim Randall, who were absent from this week’s meeting.
The council members who voted this week said they will remain firm on their stances.
John Bacon and Larry Campbell were the two opposing voters.
Both conducted extensive research online about whether there are second-hand health risks from e-cigarettes. Neither found anything conclusive.
“When you compare e-cigarettes to actual cigarette smoke the difference is like night and day,” Bacon said.
“Until I can conclusively know that it is harmful to others, I won’t support the change,” he said.
Councilwoman Marge Vogt disagreed.
“When you pull out an e-cigarette in public, people don’t know what it is, and that’s an issue,” she said. “I think it’s better to side with caution, because we don’t know the health risks yet. When cigarettes came out, people thought they were safe and guess what, they’re not.”
Overland Park added e-cigarettes to its smoking ban earlier this year, with only one council member voting no.
Also during Olathe council meeting, a presentation on the upcoming changes to Olathe Medical Center was given to the council.
The hospital campus, located at 151st Street and Interstate 35, will undergo a massive renovation next year.
Mike Jensen, the vice president of marketing and external affairs at the center, told the council one of the biggest changes will be the construction of a new 105,000-square-foot patient room tower for a new OB/NICU unit.
The hospital plans to add several more physicians to deliver babies, raise the level of care in the nursery, and add amenities, such as single-family rooms for NICU patients to make the center a comfortable place to deliver, he said.
There will also be a construction of a new entrance and expansion to the kitchen and dining area, plus construction of a new comprehensive 25,000-square-foot cancer center.