By Patrick B. McGuigan | Oklahoma Watchdog
OKLAHOMA CITY — The city of Ada really has it out for smokers, even those who choose to go smokeless with e-cigarettes.
The Ada City Council has banned the use of tobacco products on public property that includes a surprising prohibition on electronic cigarettes.
After receiving assurances that a measure at Monday’s meeting of the City Council would be an age restriction that extended to electronic cigarettes, defenders of tobacco alternatives were shocked to discover the ordinance was an extensive ban on public use of tobacco — including e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco and do not produce smoke.
In the end, the council was closely divided, approving the ban 3-2.
Community leaders, including Mayor Greg McCortney and Vice-Mayor Shane Sweeney, were among the opponents. Both are newcomers to the board for the southeast Oklahoma town, population 17,000-plus. They were elected in the spring.
Shawn Gore, chairman of the Oklahoma Vapors Advocacy League, said he learned just hours before Monday evening’s meeting the ordinance included the anti-e-cigarette language. Gore owns a store that sells e-cigarettes.
The measure’s provisions address tobacco use in all indoor workplaces, outdoor areas “on a property owned by the city,” any “indoor place used by or open to the public,” recreational areas, most areas within restaurants or bars, and other restrictions.
While stringent, such language is becoming commonplace. However, the latest twist in this case was the inclusion every variety of “electronic smoking device.”
Greg Conley, legislative director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternative Association, said Wednesday he was reeling from the Monday night vote. Inclusion of an “emergency” provision in the legislation had limited public notice of the true intent of the proposal, he said.
Both Conley and Gore said the inclusion of e-cigarettes is a response to the grant-making process of the state Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and Oklahoma Turning Point, both of which are encouraging communities to ban or limit tobacco-free products.
Across the nation, local anti-tobacco groups have been moving against non-tobacco products like e-cigarettes in response to the grant incentives.
Late Wednesday, Ada’s public relations office had not responded to a request for comment on the new legislation, including whether open meeting strictures were honored, and how officials had responded to requests for information from defenders of e-cigarettes.
Confusion about the extent of the Ada ban — whether it includes sidewalks, for example, in the definition of “public places” — may lead to a second vote.
Read more on efforts to limit electronic cigarettes:
Contact Pat McGuigan at firstname.lastname@example.org .