E-cigarettes banned in public places in the county

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MINERAL COUNTY Commissioners voted to ban e-cigarettes in public places, adding them to the Mineral County Clean Indoor Air Act. (Maggie Dresser/Mineral Independent)

Electronic cigarette users will no longer be able to “vape” in public facilities after Mineral County commissioners passed a motion to add them to the county-wide Clean Indoor Air Act at a public meeting on Friday, June 7.

The vote followed a proposal by the Mineral County Board of Health who said electronic cigarette use is a health hazard. Electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, aerosol that is exhaled contains chemicals, metals and nicotine which can cause cancer, respiratory conditions and heart disease.

“You’re not telling that person they can’t use them, they’re just telling them they can’t use them in a public space,” said Barb Jasper, a public health nurse at Mineral County Health Department.

The Mineral County Board of Health began their proposal for the Clean Indoor Air Act’s expansion due to an increased use in e-cigarettes, especially among high school students.

ACCORDING TO the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior data survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of youth in Montana are current e-cigarette users. A Mineral County survey showed that 49 percent of youth have used an e-cigarette, and 26 percent have used in the last 30 days.

“Mineral County is higher,” Jasper said. “I was hoping it would show a big decline because we have been trying to do education.”

These statistics lead health professionals to continue advocating against the tobacco products, especially in public places where they are becoming normalized.

“It’s not a healthy thing and it’s not good for kids,” Jasper said.

E-cigarettes are banned on high school campuses, but Superior High School Principal Chris Clairmont says the devices are so small that the kids can hide them.

“It makes investigating much more difficult,” Clairmont says. “We’re working on educating kids on harmful effects.”

WHILE E-CIGS are already banned on school properties, County Commissioner Roman Zylawy was concerned businesses like bars and restaurants would prefer to set their own rules.

But Jasper addressed his concerns after she sent postcards to business owners in Mineral County inviting them to attend the meeting. No business owner attended the meeting.

In 2009, Montana banned smoking in all public places to protect patrons and workers from deadly health effects of secondhand smoke exposure. The ban was also intended to help people quit smoking and to prevent Montana’s youth from starting, according to the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Although no smoke is produced from e-cigarettes, studies show formaldehyde, benzene, carcinogens and other toxins exist in secondhand emissions, according to the American Lung Association.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, e-cigarettes expose the lungs to chemicals including nickel, chromium and cadmium. Research suggests that e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes but can still remain a health hazard.

Jasper says she hopes to strengthen the message by increasing community awareness and hopes more parents will start talk to their kids about the harmful effects.

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