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Ingham County bans use of electric smoking devices in county buildings

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Posted at 4:04 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-30 16:04:11-05

While the use of electronic smoking devices is relatively new, the Ingham County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices, also known as vape, in buildings owned or operated by the county last week.

The effort is to protect those who not only work at county owned facilities, but also the people who are needing to use their services.

Linda Vail, Ingham County Health Officer, said that this resolution is there to protect those who do not get a choice to use the products or not, and she has received complaints of people using the devices in the buildings.

“Without this policy there is nothing you could do (to stop people),” said Vail, adding that people were using electronic smoking devices in county operated buildings. “It’s also confusing in general if someone comes in and sees somebody else using an electronic smoking device. It is not the message we want to send out.”

While research into the health factors of using electronic smoking devices for nicotine are still in their early stages, Vail said that there are some health concerns that the product may produce based on the early studies.

According to the EPA, liquid nicotine is considered hazardous, and the research suggests that propylene glycol and glycerin, which are commonly found in vapors, can create eye and respiratory irritation. Also, Vail said that when the vape liquid is heated, it may form carcinogens, like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

“The nicotine in them is addictive, and it is also toxic and poisonous as well to children,” said Vail. “What we are doing (with this resolution) is protecting people from exposure to second-hand vapors.”

Vail added that electronic smoking devices and the liquid is not under the Clean Air law, which prohibits smoking cigarettes in public places. This measure is taking an extra step to protect people in county buildings.

“Research on the health effects of electronic smoking devices is still in its infancy, but we do know that they can promote nicotine addiction among young people,” said Ingham County Chairperson Sarah Anthony. “Use of these devices in public places can also cause confusion in the general public about smoking regulations. It is sensible to keep electronic smoking devices out of the places where the county does business and serves residents.” 

The resolution, which took effect immediately after it was passed, defines electronic smoking devices to be a noncombustible product designed to contain a vapor cartridge, nicotine or other substance that employs an electronic heating element to produce vapor.

Vail said that this is a proactive step to protecting people from second-hand exposure.

Previously, the county restricted the sale of electronic smoking devices to minors, and Vail said that they are currently not looking into any further regulations regarding it.

She did add that there is a lot of push at the federal and large organization levels to have electronic smoking devices classified as a tobacco product. If they are considered to be a tobacco product, then they will fall under the clean air law.