Juneau E-cigarette users face new but familiar rule

  • By KATIE MORITZ
  • Sunday, July 13, 2014 10:47pm
  • News

JUNEAU, Alaska — Juneau resident Todd Mace picked up electronic cigarette use about a year ago as a healthier option while he tried to kick a decade-long cigarette habit. Being able to take a couple puffs of his e-cigarette inside the bars kept him out of the lineup of smokers outside downtown bars — and away from temptation, he said.

But now Mace, along with Juneau’s other e-cigarette smokers, must follow the same rules imposed on tobacco smokers — no smoking in bars, restaurants, bus stop shelters, city buildings and other public places.

The ordinance amending the city’s pre-existing secondhand smoke control code to include e-cigarettes was adopted at a June 30 Assembly meeting. It puts into writing what some city institutions — including the Juneau School District and the Zach Gordon Youth Center — had already decided to do: put restrictions on a relatively new product that hasn’t been addressed through legislation.

Robert Barr, director of the downtown library, was integral in getting something on e-cigarettes in the Juneau books. He said that since e-cigarettes became popular, he has had about six instances in which library patrons either asked if they could use an e-cigarette inside or just took one out and started puffing. With e-cigarettes left out of the city’s secondhand smoke control code, library staff couldn’t legally say no, Barr said, and they couldn’t do anything when other patrons complained about the vapor.

“We couldn’t really address those complaints people were having,” he said. “I asked the city attorney if that was something that fell under the city secondhand smoking code.”

“It didn’t seem appropriate to be using e-cigarettes in the libraries considering that the health effects seemed to be pretty real. We went forward from there.”

He worked with city attorney Amy Mead for about two months until the ordinance was adopted, he said.

There are many opinions on the health effects of e-cigarettes, which are filled with a liquid combination of propylene glycol, water, flavoring, nicotine, and other chemicals that is then heated, vaporized and inhaled.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not yet regulating the contents of e-cigarettes. The administration is currently taking public comment on the issue, however.

Barr pointed out that in October of last year, 41 of 50 states’ attorneys general — including Alaska’s — signed a letter to the FDA entreating it to begin regulating e-cigarettes.

“They’re marketed as being safe products that can be used in public unlike tobacco,” he said. “That’s unfortunately not true.”

Bob Urata, a physician with Valley Medical Care, spoke in favor of the ordinance during the public comment period at the June 30 Assembly meeting, according to meeting minutes. He called e-cigarettes “the new battle” now that lung cancer prevalence in Alaska is dropping. Urata said that although the FDA is still researching it, the aerosol inhaled and exhaled from e-cigarettes is “not benign” even if it isn’t smoke, and contains toxins and carcinogens. If a product includes nicotine and is exhaled, it doesn’t belong in a public building, he said.

Mace said he knows that e-cigarettes aren’t healthy, but he feels so much better than he did when he was smoking a pack a day. He started using an e-cigarette about a year ago, and, a few months ago, stopped smoking cigarettes entirely.

“The last four months I stopped buying them, I stopped bumming them from friends,” he said. “An alternative to help me quit smoking is why I bought (an e-cigarette).”

He said he’s read article after article about the effects of e-cigarette use. It’s hard to say what’s fact and what isn’t, but, regardless, he doesn’t plan to be a lifetime user.

“Ultimately, I do want to quit smoking electronic cigarettes as well,” he said.

Mace said he’s disappointed he’ll no longer be able to smoke inside at bars. That’s the only public, indoor place he’d ever used it because “there’s a certain etiquette “ to e-cigarette use, he said.

“I don’t walk around at Fred Meyer using it,” he said. “I saw a guy in Wells Fargo setting up a new account, … puffing away. Don’t be disrespectful — don’t be in the movie theater, don’t be in the store.”

Mace’s smoking habit started years ago while drinking with friends at bars, and the temptation is still very real, he said. Keeping his distance from other smokers has helped him stay cigarette-free.

The appeal of the e-cigarette is “I don’t have to be outside, I don’t have to be around it, the temptation’s not there,” he said. “But what I’m going to do is just go outside and have my electronic cigarette.”

Barr said he’s pleased the ordinance passed, and library patrons will be, too. There isn’t enough e-cigarette use in the library to merit putting up signs, he said, but anyone who breaks the new rules will be notified.

The ordinance was adopted without much discussion by the Assembly, which voted unanimously in favor.

“This was a pretty easy one,” Barr said. “The assembly was interested in adding this in, and did so.”

More in News

The Alaska State Capitol is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Supreme Court rules against forward funding for education, confirms limit on legislative power

Setting multi-year budgets in Alaska requires cash on hand, justices said

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
What to watch: Cheney in trouble; Palin eyes comeback

Sarah Palin jumped on a vacancy in the state’s congressional delegation as a potential springboard back into elected office

Assembly members participate during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to revisit gravel pit legislation

A proposed ordinance would overhaul borough code addressing material site permits

Campaign signs decorate the outside of Paradisos Restaurant on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Election 2022: Where, how, when to vote

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday

As measured by the CDC, dispensing rate reflects the number of prescriptions dispensed per 100 persons per year. While the United States’ dispensing rate peaked at 81.3 in 2012, the Kenai Peninsula’s rate was 100 or higher every year between 2001 and 2015. Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara.
Borough creates grant program to distribute opioid settlement funds

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will offer hundreds of thousands of dollars in… Continue reading

Alaska Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer speaks during a press conference announcing the administration’s push for changes to the state’s election system on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kevin Goodman, State of Alaska)
Just 2 Alaska lieutenant governor candidates say 2020 presidential vote was fair

Alaska’s lieutenant governor will oversee the 2024 presidential election

Kenai Peninsula School District Superintendent Clayton Holland stand near the entrance to the district’s Soldotna offices on Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Academics, staff recruitment among district priorities for upcoming school year

The superintendent is ready to see KPBSD return to the district’s pre-COVID-19 academic performance

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Personal use harvest reports due Monday

Northern Kenai fishing report

Evelyn Cooley competes in the barrel race at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Aug. 12, 2022, in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Music, magic, daredevils and pigs

Kenai Peninsula Fair brings an assortment of activities to Ninilchik

Most Read