The Bloomington city council deliberated ordinances changing regulations on electronic cigarette smoking, stench bombs and fencing around swimming pools Wednesday at its committee session.
City regulations on smoking have existed for about 40 years and currently ban smoking in certain public places and outdoor areas. The latest proposed ordinance would define electronic smoking devices and ban them in public places and workplaces.
Electronic smoking devices are defined as devices capable of producing inhalable nicotine, such as e-cigarettes.
The federal government extended its regulations on smoking in 2016 to include electronic smoking devices. Indianapolis, other cities in the state and Howard County have similar laws.
The ordinance is designed to deter young adults and teenagers, the age group most likely to use electronic smoking devices according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The council suggested it pass the ordinance 4-0-3. Council members Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Tim Mayer were not at the meeting.
Council members who were present were divided on whether or not e-cigarettes were as dangerous for users and secondhand consumers as using real cigarettes. Council member Steve Volan critiqued the city health department’s analysis that vaping is a gateway to consuming real smoke. Instead, Volan said that many people use e-cigarettes to transition out of smoking.
Beverly Calendar-Anderson, director of the city Community and Family Resources department, and medical professionals in attendance said that while there is research on e-cigarettes, the devices have not been around long enough to know about the long-term effects as researchers do about secondhand cigarette smoke.
Public attendee Anthony Fox, who said he goes to alcoholics anonymous meetings at the 12/24 Club, a recovery center on West 11th Street, said that some of the members of the club choose to vape during meetings.
“It’s become a problem for us who have quit smoking or who have never smoked,” said he, adding that one woman had an asthma attack while sitting next to a person using an e-cigarette at an AA meeting. Fox said he has since stopped going to the club because of people using vapes.
Various people who own or manage vape shops in the city spoke during the public comment period as well.
Maxx Electronic Cigarette owner Dennis Elkins, said he was thankful the ordinance would still allow employees to demonstrate vape products in their stores. However, he argued that people need to be able to vape in order to transition out of using tobacco products, like he did in 2008.
Indy e-cigs owner Shadi Khoury echoed similar sentiments and said vaping regulations should be up to business owners.
“If it’s going to be self-policed, why don’t we leave it up to the business owners to establish whether or not they will allow vaping?” he said.
The second ordinance also changes city code to stop regulating stench bombs.
The current regulations prohibit the sale, possession or use of any device that omits “noxious or offensive smelling” in the city.
These laws were instated in 1957, and the city does not have any record of a violation of the law. Council member Susan Sandberg asked city lawyers why the ban was ever a part of city code in the first place, but attorney Mike Rouker said he did not look into the legislative history. He did clarify that stench bombs are still illegal under Indiana statute, so removing this ordinance does not legalize their use.
The ordinance also mandates that swimming pools three feet deep or deeper need to have five-feet-tall fencing surrounding it. The ordinance would also take away the regulation that all bodies of water need to have such fencing.
The city did not follow its own ordinance because building fences would be expensive, hinder storm water flow and diminish aesthetic value of the area. Removing the ordinance would take away the liability of the city to anyone who was injured at a public body of water that was not fenced.
The council recommended it pass the ordinance 7-0.