Electronic cigarettes have been added to Overland Park’s smoking ban.
At its meeting Monday evening, the city council voted to amend its smoking ordinance to include the personal vaporizers. The ordinance, which was originally passed nearly a decade ago, prohibits indoor smoking in places such as bars, restaurants and hotel rooms.
Not all council members were keen on the change, however.
Councilman Paul Lyons was the only one who voted against the amendment. He said changing the ordinance seemed premature since the health risks associated with second-hand exposure to e-cigarettes are currently unknown.
“This impacts an individual’s rights and we shouldn’t take away that right until we have evidence that this is a public health issue that affects everyone around them,” he said.
Councilmen Terry Goodman and Richard Collins disagreed.
“While research is not one hundred percent conclusive, it does raise some doubts in my mind, so I think we should err on the side of caution,” Collins said, referring to the risks of second-hand exposure.
Goodman told the council he thought it was better to be safe than sorry until more research was conducted.
“If five years from now, they find these devices are totally harmless, we can deregulate them,” he said.
He also pointed out that several cities, as well as countries, already have included e-cigarettes in their smoking bans.
The council also unanimously approved a special use permit to allow an elephant for wedding festivities at the Overland Park Marriott hotel in September.
The elephant will carry the groom in a procession around the hotel’s parking lot and will be available for wedding guests to take photos following the ceremony.
The applicant, Barbara Byrd, had filed for a dangerous animal permit a while ago, which was required before the special use permit, but it got denied because of safety issues. After making changes, such as blocking off the parking lot, adding an extra handler who will have a tranquilizer gun, and adding more liability insurance, the permit was recently approved.
“This request is a bit unusual,” said Mark Kessler, the Overland Park interim police chief. “I can’t remember the last time we had a request like this one, or the last time we even had an elephant in the city. It sounds like it will be a fun event.”
At its meeting, the council also adopted the 2015 proposed budget.