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South Valley Journal

Riverton City Bans E-Cigarette Use from Public Parks

Aug 04, 2016 11:26AM ● By Briana Kelley

E-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems are no longer permitted in public places. -Thong Vo

By Briana Kelley | [email protected] 

Riverton, Utah - Residents can no longer use electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco in public areas, including public parks. Riverton City Council voted unanimously on June 28 to expand the definition of smoking to include electronic or e-cigarettes, electronic oral devices and the use of other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco. Smoking in city parks was already prohibited.

“I think e-cigarettes are just as bad and just as toxic as cigarettes,” Councilmember Brent Johnson said. “They might sound better, but they’re not. I believe they pose a health hazard for the public. Also, there is a perception that if you allow e-cigarettes and not smoking, that’s not right. If we have a no-smoking policy in a public area such as a park, that should extend to e-cigarette smoking. Otherwise, it infringes on other people’s rights.” 

Johnson proposed changing the definition of smoking in city parks after he and his wife witnessed people using e-cigarettes in the City Park. Johnson also came across park damage caused by chewing tobacco. 

“My wife and I walk in the park at least five days a week, and people come to me and say, ‘These people are smoking e-cigarettes. Why can’t I smoke my cigarettes? It’s a double standard,’” Johnson said. “As I walked around the park and talked to people, it was unanimous that smoking in general meant smoking no matter what it was—any tobacco products.” 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers e-cigarettes an electronic nicotine delivery system or ENDS. These products use liquid containing nicotine, and other ingredients which are then heated by the device into an aerosol that the user inhales. This is often called vaping. Other ENDS include vaporizers, vape pens and e-pipes.

Vaping has become somewhat of a political hot topic in the last few years as the product has gained in popularity. This year, the Utah State Legislature considered an 86.5 percent tax increase on e-cigarettes during the last legislative session. The same tax is charged on other non-cigarette tobacco products in Utah. The tax failed to pass and was sent to interim study.

Also this year, the FDA finalized a rule that extends its authority to include the regulation of ENDS. The final rule goes into effect on Aug. 8 with mixed reception. 

“This action is a milestone in consumer protection;  going forward, the FDA will be able to review new tobacco products not yet on the market, help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, evaluate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, and communicate the potential risks of tobacco products,” the FDA website stated. 

Proponents argue that ENDS is a safer alternative to cigarette smoking and can help in quitting smoking. Those against ENDS argue that it is essentially another form of smoking because they utilize nicotine.

Opponents also cite the rising number of underage use. Sixteen percent of high school and 5.3 percent of middle school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2015, making e-cigarettes the most commonly used tobacco product among youth for the second consecutive year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thus far, medical organizations differ regarding the health implications of ENDS use and more research is needed to study the long-term effects. Because the devices normally contain nicotine, however, many medical organizations and government organizations are hesitant to recommend or condone ENDS, according to the World Health Organization.

Riverton City’s new ordinance brings the concerns and debate about ENDS use to a community level. New signs will be posted in city parks. The ordinance includes city-owned parks, public squares, ball diamonds, golf courses, soccer fields and other recreation areas, city-owned cemeteries and trails, but not designated smoking areas specified by city officials.

“I think this ordinance is going over very well with residents, and it’s making a difference,” Councilmember Paul Wayman said. “I definitely think e-cigarettes should be limited in public areas, and I 100 percent support the ordinance. The parks are for everybody.”