Smoking ban changes take effect

RICHMOND — The use of hookahs and electronic cigarettes will be banned from public places in Madison County starting Monday, when a controversial amendment to the county’s Clean Indoor Air Regulation takes effect.The regulation, first enacted by the Madison County Board of Health 2007, also will no longer exempt retail tobacco stores from the public indoor smoking ban.The original action included a few exceptions, such as retail tobacco shops.

Electronic cigarettes are battery powered and heat a nicotine-containing liquid, creating a vapor which users inhale.When the board first proposed expanding the regulation, proponents of e-cigarettes protested, saying the devices are safe. Because no combustion takes place, they produce no airborne particulates, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or other harmful products of combustion.Dr. Theresa Whitt, medical director for a group that calls itself Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives, said in a press release to the Register sent in April that the group believes e-cigarrettes are potentially beneficial to the health of users because they offer an alternative to cigarettes that would reduce their risks of smoking -related diseases.“Nicotine does not cause lung disease, heart disease or cancer — smoke does,” Whitt said.But nicotine, which is used as a pesticide, is toxic and can damage organs, said Kelly Owens, the health board’s tobacco cessation and control coordinator, in an April interview with the Register.Also, a variety of studies have concluded that e-cigarettes are not safe, including a study cited by the University of Kentucky College of Nursing’s Tobacco Policy Research Program that found that the vapors exhaled by e-cigarette users likely contain nicotine, propylene glycol and carcinogens. Also, a 2010 study by Sleiman that found that nicotine deposits react with elements in the air to form carcinogens.The board also elected to include hookahs in the regulation after Ahmad Allatifeh and Bill Gibson asked the board in February, 2010, to allow them to open a hookah cafe in Richmond.A motion to allow use in public places of the so-called “water pipes” popular in southern Asia and the Middle East failed for lack of a second.Hookahs often use flavored tobacco.Another change to the regulation is no longer allowing smoking in retail tobacco stores.John Metzker, owner of Hall’s Tobacco Store in Richmond, said he was unaware that customer’s would not longer be allowed to sample tobacco products in his business.“The law allowed us to because most of what I sell is tobacco products,” he said.He doesn’t believe the ban will hurt business, although he knows customers like having the option of smoking there, he said.With the amendment, the only areas now exempt are outdoor places of employment, no more than 25 percent of a hotel’s guest rooms, and private residences unless used as a childcare, adult-daycare or health-care facility, according to the regulation posted on the health department’s website.Businesses are required to post “no smoking” signs, which are available for order on the health department’s website.Businesses that violate the regulation can be fined from $100 to $300 for each violation. They also could lose health-department issued operating licenses.