PHOENIX — Tempe residents will soon need to find another alternative to electronic cigarettes if they want to smoke in a public place.
The city council voted 5-1, with one absent, Thursday night to ban e-cigarettes in the same ares where cigarettes are prohibited, including bars, restaurants, schools and other enclosed public areas.
“Traditional cigarettes have been banned in public places since 2002 and all we did was move e-cigarettes into the same classification,” said Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell.
The ban, which goes into effect Aug. 31, was passed after officials said the alternative means of smoking still pose a danger to public health.
“It was clear to us that e-cigarettes and the vapor that is emitted from them is likely a public health hazard,” said Mitchell. “You’re breathing in the vapor that’s emitted from e-cigarettes that contains some levels of nicotine, some levels of toxins and formaldehyde.”
However, Kolby Granville, the sole council member to vote against the proposal, said the city may have acted too soon.
“My main concern was we were banning something that we really had no understanding of the secondary effects,” he said, noting there is some concern miniscule portions of the heating element may make their way into the vapor.
Andrew Hale, general manager of Innovative Vapors in Tempe, agreed with Granville. He said the devices are a healthier alternative to cigarettes, but public opinion does not differentiate.
“People view it as smoking,” he said. “It looks like smoking. Because of that, we do struggle with (people) blatantly categorizing us with smokers.”
A former smoker, Hale said he would gladly return to cigarettes if there was evidence that e-cigarettes also posed a risk.
“I would gladly give up my e-cigarette use and go back to cigarettes if I could find a single piece of peer-reviewed scientific evidence that said it was dangerous,” he said.
Granville said the ban has illogical roots, since so much is still unknown about the effect of e-cigarettes on health. He compared it to Red Bull or vitamin supplements, both of which are extremely popular but have yet to be the focus of long-term health studies, yet they’re legal.
Hale took the matter further, saying the classification of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product was inaccurate because the devices burn a mix of flavored water and nicotine. No tobacco is present.
Granville also said he voted against the law because Americans should have a right to choose if they want to use e-cigarettes.
“Liberty means anything,” he said. “It means the ability to make choices that are bad for you personally but only affect you personally.”
With the ban taking effect so soon, Hale said he has no doubt his sales will decrease.
“A lot of our customers, one of the reasons they go to e-cigarettes is that they’re able to use them in areas that they typically wouldn’t be able to smoke,” he said.
Under current Arizona and Tempe law, smokers must be at least 20 feet from a doorway before lighting up. Smoking is permissible in certain businesses lacking a fully-enclosed space or that have a patio.
The ban does not spell the end of e-cigarettes in Tempe, however. Mitchell said the city is not banning them in private residences nor shops that sell the devices.
It is also not looking to restrict sales. Mitchell said, when the city became the first to ban cigarette use in 2002, it worked with businesses to lengthen patio area to allow for smoking areas.
There is also a chance the ban could be lifted. The Food and Drug Administration is researching the devices and could declare them safe. Granville said, should they get the all-clear, the city would be happy to revisit the issue.
KTAR’s Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon