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April 10, 2014

Health panel holds firm on electronic cigarettes

(Continued)

"What I was disappointed in (was) the five of the seven (board members) that were actually there could not table it, discuss it and do a little research," she said. "They owe it to us. They represent our community, our health and well-being."

Members of the audience were given five minutes to speak; two others spoke against the e-cigarette ban, including Pat Powers, director of Hancock County Community Corrections.

Powers says the devices are not lighted and therefore don't fit the definition of smoking devices.

In fact, much of the discussion Tuesday dealt with definitions, even though several health board members acknowledged they didn't know much about the product.

The ordinance covers people exposed to "toxic chemicals whether in the form of tobacco smoke or otherwise." The products listed in the ordinance include cigarettes, cigars, pipes and "any other lighted and/or smoldering equipment."

Board member Jim Bever said he doesn't know if a chemical combustion takes place, but e-cigarettes certainly match the "smoldering" definition of the law. He also said it's ultimately the county commissioners' decision to decide whether to change the ordinance.

"It's not our job to do the commissioners' job," Bever added.

Board president John Ritter said he generally agreed with the county health officer's interpretation of the law and that e-cigarettes should be included in the countywide ban.

"To err on the side of safety - even in the absence of any knowledge - is probably the position we have to take," Ritter said.

Dr. Rob Klinestiver commended the health department for its stance on electronic cigarettes.

"Bottom line is, the FDA has not had time to study or regulate this new product," said Klinestiver, a county lung specialist who spoke from the audience. "E-cigarettes have absolutely no regulation; there's no known list of chemicals that are in them. We should consider these at least as dangerous as cigarettes, if not more. We just don't know."

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