Joco Opinion

Bob Sigman: Overland Park leads the way against risks of e-cigarettes

Overland Park has again demonstrated why it is recognized as one of the nation’s most livable cities. In August, the city council banned the use of electronic cigarettes in public places, the first city in Johnson County to take action against what is called vaping.

Councilman Terry Goodman, who initiated the ordinance, said the proliferation of e-cigarette use had raised concerns. He contended that the city should err on the side of caution pending additional research on the potential risks of e-cigarettes.

The ban was added to the city’s existing prohibition against tobacco smoking in work places, restaurants, bars and other public sites. The new ordinance specifically prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under18 years of age.

Current e-cigarette stores are grandfathered into the new ordinance. New businesses must be in stand-alone structures.

Those pushing e-cigarettes argue they help tobacco smokers who are trying to quit. That is disputed in a recent report that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, weighed in on the issue in a report circulated by the Kansas Health Institute’s news service.

“So, once we have our youth taking up this habit,” he said, “will they become addicted not just to e-cigarettes but do what a lot of our adult chronic smokers are doing, which is use both electronic cigarettes and tobacco products?”

The sale of e-cigarettes to minors has been outlawed in both Kansas and Missouri. The Kansas Legislature enacted a ban two years ago. The Missouri Legislature followed this year.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the legislation but last week the General Assembly overrode him.

Nixon objected to a provision that exempted e-cigarettes from the same rules that regulate tobacco.

In his veto message, Nixon cited studies that show the presence of heavy metal particles and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in e-cigarette vapor.

“Not unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes,” he said, “these products may carry significant health risks to users and others through direct and secondhand inhalation in a manner not unlike traditional tobacco cigarettes.”

He added: 00“Though electronic cigarettes are relatively new, having been patented in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist and sold in the United States only since 2007, they are growing in popularity with sales projected to top $1.5 billion in the United States this year.”

Missouri joins a growing number of states that have banned sales to minors.

Overland Park’s action is in line with steps taken recently by international and national groups to curb the use of e-cigarettes.

The World Health Organization encouraged governments to ban e-cigarettes and to prohibit tactics to entice young people to use them. In the spring the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on sales to minors and free samples. The FDA’s rule would also mandate health warnings and a listing of ingredients.

Closer to home, Gladstone is the only other city in the area to act against e-cigarettes, according to Clean Air Metro Kansas City. Other cities are studying the issue.

It is fortunate that smoke-ban leaders such as Don Potts, a member of the Independence Advisory Board of Health, are involved in the issue.

“While little is known about the long-term effects of e-cigarette use,” he said, “short-term studies show adverse effects on lung function after just 10 minutes of use, including airway resistance.”

Freelancer Bob Sigman, a former member of the Editorial Board, writes in this space once a month.