Government & Politics

Petition drive challenges Kansas City e-cigarette restrictions

A Kansas City ordinance approved Nov. 19 banned the use of vapor products, including electronic cigarettes, from enclosed public spaces, including bars and restaurants.
A Kansas City ordinance approved Nov. 19 banned the use of vapor products, including electronic cigarettes, from enclosed public spaces, including bars and restaurants. The Associated Press

Yet another petition drive is underway in Kansas City, this time seeking to overturn restrictions on electronic cigarette use in enclosed public areas.

The Kansas City Council voted Nov. 19 to support three ordinances restricting tobacco and e-cigarette use.

Two ordinances were aimed at raising the legal age to purchase these products from 18 to 21. Those ordinances take effect Sunday.

The third ordinance banned the use of vapor products, including electronic cigarettes, from enclosed public spaces, including bars and restaurants. That ordinance was scheduled to take effect in 60 days.

A group calling itself Bistate Regional Advocates for Vaping Education (BRAVE) is gathering signatures to overturn that indoor vapor use ban in Kansas City.

BRAVE, which promotes vapor and other nicotine alternatives in Missouri and southern Illinois, argues the new ordinance imposes expensive and unfair costs for separate ventilation systems on small independent vapor shops.

The group has made arrangements to present more than 100 signatures of registered voters to the city clerk on Sunday, the deadline to turn those signatures in to start the referendum process. Under the city charter, once those signatures are verified, the group has 40 days to try to gather 3,400 petition signatures. The petitions seek to compel the council to repeal that indoor ban or schedule a referendum election next year.

Bert Brown, Kansas City regional vice president for BRAVE, said health advocates did not reach out to the vapor industry to hear their perspective before the council’s vote.

He said vapor products are a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes and the prohibition is an infringement on the rights of small businesses.

Councilman Scott Taylor, lead sponsor of the ordinances, said Friday the council took a stand for the public’s health, with support from more than 140 health and business organizations.

“We heard many of the same generic arguments made against a reasonable public safety action when we implemented smoke-free restaurants in Kansas City several years ago,” Taylor said in an email. “The City Council recently heard compelling testimony at our public hearing on how teenagers continue to be enticed to start the addictive habit of smoking through a variety of means, including cigarettes, e-cigs and vapor products.”

This petition drive follows two others seeking to challenge the City Council’s votes on a new convention hotel and on a new Crossroads office headquarters project.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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