Up in (e-cigarette) smoke

The topic of electronic cigarettes once again led to more questions than answers for Clark County Commissioners.

Public Health officials presented Commissioners Marc Boldt, Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart, serving in their capacity as the Board of Health, with a draft ordinance on e-cigarettes at their work session Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to people younger than 18 (state law prohibits the sale of other nicotine products to that age group) and would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by all people in public places where cigarettes are not allowed.

After asking whether e-cigarettes could be sold to minors, Mielke asked: “When we adopt something like this, does it serve as an endorsement to a product?”

Boldt explained the ordinance was prohibiting e-cigarettes, not endorsing them – an answer that satisfied Mielke’s curiosity.

Stuart said he didn’t support prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in public places because water vapor is exhaled, not cigarette smoke.

Mielke agreed with Stuart and said he was reluctant to go beyond what current laws allow. But that prompted another question by Mielke.

“Is it legal or illegal to smoke in bars?” he asked.

The other commissioners, and health officials, assured Mielke smoking cigarettes in bars is illegal.

“We get so much news from Portland, I get confused,” Mielke conceded.

Nobody informed Mielke that Oregon also prohibits smoking indoors, including in bars.

Public Health Director John Wiesman told the commissioners the citizen advisory council supported both pieces of the ordinance. The council worried about the slippery slope the county could be on if it allows e-cigarette use indoors.

“I’ve never been a fan of slippery slope arguments,” Stuart announced.

Stuart said he could make an argument for the other side of Wiesman’s slippery slope. Why not regulate everything that’s bad for a person, Stuart offered.

“Burgers? Gone,” he said.

Might as well require Burgerville to pass tougher emissions tests so Big Stu isn’t tempted by the smell of a Tillamook cheeseburger every time he drives by the local burger joint.

And don’t just stop with Burgerville.

“Oh my gosh, we’ve gotta shut down Cinnabon,” Stuart said, because a person can’t walk by one of the shops without being seduced by the sweet aroma of cinnamon rolls.

Point taken.

Wiesman said he would present an ordinance to the board that did not prohibit adults from using e-cigarettes in public places.

As the meeting was coming to an end, Wiesman said he scheduled a work session with the Vancouver City Council for sometime in June. Boldt suggested Wiesman take a commissioner with him.

Mielke may get confused on smoking laws, but he seemed certain about one thing: who Wiesman should take to the meeting.

“The meanest, biggest and ugliest,” a smirking Mielke said as he turned his chair toward Stuart.

Wiesman opted not to disclose who he believes fits that description.

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