Eau Claire City Council Passes Partial Ban On Smoking E-Cigarettes

Council Votes 9-1 To Prohibit People From Vaping In City-Owned Buildings And Buses

E-cigarettes can often strongly resemble 'analog' cigarettes. Photo: Lindsay Fox (CC-BY).

The Eau Claire City Council has passed a partial ban on the use of electronic cigarettes, joining a very small list of local governments to have done so.

In 9-1 vote, the city council passed an ordinance on Tuesday prohibiting people from smoking e-cigarettes — battery-operated devices that vaporize a liquid containing nicotine — in city-owned buildings and buses. City Council member Kathy Mitchell said too little is known about the impact on individuals and people around them.

“The reason that we brought this forward is because we feel that it is a public health concern,” she said.

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Also, Mitchell said since e-cigarettes don’t actually burn tobacco, they aren’t prohibited by existing state and local smoking laws.

“The way our ordinance was before we voted, people in the room last night could have been smoking e-cigarettes,” said Mitchell. “I personally don’t want to be in a room with that vapor until I know what it’s going to do to me.”

Donna Wininsky of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin said the local e-cigarette bans signal a larger trend.

“The ball is just starting to roll and we certainly would expect to see other communities pass similar ordinances in the very near future,” said Wininsky.

Wininsky said health advocates are urging government officials to take action until good science related to impacts of e-cigarettes on health are available.

Last session, state Sen. Glen Grothman introduced a bill exempting e-cigarettes from the state smoking ban. He said he’ll introduce it again next session, though his office wouldn’t say if it will affect local governments’ ability to ban them.