Amid widespread support from the County Board, Dane County will likely soon join Madison in banning the use of electronic cigarettes in most shared workplaces.
A recently proposed ordinance amendment from Supervisor Jenni Dye and County Executive Joe Parisi would add the devices to the existing indoor smoking ban. The amendment passed the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee 4-2 Tuesday evening and already has more than half of the County Board listed as sponsors, all but assuring the amendment’s passage in coming weeks.
“Our restaurants and bars are already smoke-free, this isn’t a change,” said Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, who voted for the ban Tuesday evening. “If smokers were using this to help them quit, great. Then not being able to smoke anything at a bar is no different than what it is right now.”
The prohibition includes most indoor workplaces, like retail stores and health care facilities, as well as public transit, within 15 feet of entrances to places where smoking is prohibited and at county parks and beaches as posted.
The ordinance carves out an exception for “retail electronic delivery device stores,” defined as stores that generate 75 percent or more of their gross annual income from sale of electronic delivery devices and accessories. It allows those stores to provide testing and sampling in store to help customers find the right device or flavor.
Dye noted that some of the opposition at the Madison level stemmed from the fact that Madison’s ordinance did not originally have an exemption for those stores.
“That is something that we included from the start, so that may address some of the concerns that we heard at the city, but I hope we’ll hear from the public as this moves through the process,” Dye said.
Madison’s indoor ban on e-cigarettes drew strong opposition from those who argue electronic cigarettes offer a healthier alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. Both sides argued that the effects of secondhand vapor are largely unknown, those in favor of the ban saying non-vapers shouldn’t have to inhale that unknown substance and those opposed to the ban saying it’s unclear whether it even causes harm.
Bayrd, however, said she doesn’t trust the tobacco industry and pointed to studies funded by that industry.
“They are not to be trusted. They’re not a trustworthy organization,” Bayrd said. “There are chemicals in this, it is not just vapor.”
Although not all the health consequences of secondhand vapor are yet known, Dye said, it’s a simple way to ensure everyone has access to clean air in shared workplaces.
“I remember one gentleman who had lung cancer and he had never smoked, but he worked in an office that he shared with an individual who did smoke in the workplace,” said Dye, recalling her time working for the American Cancer Society. “I think about him when I think about this resolution.”