News and Events

Marion County Florida Passes Ordinance to Restrict Youth Access and Exposure to Electronic Cigarettes
November 19, 2013

On November 19, 2013 the Board of County Commissioners in Marion County, Florida, voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to reduce youth access and exposure to electronic cigarettes.

The ordinance prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18, places the products behind the counter requiring retailer-assisted sales, and bans the use of the devices in places where traditional tobacco is currently banned under the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.

Marion BOCC
Members of Students Working Against Tobacco meet the Marion County Commissioners.

During the final reading of the ordinance, there was plenty of time for public comment, as well as discussion among the county commissioners.

Several members of the Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Chapter presented on the potential harm of electronic cigarettes, and the fact that there has been a sharp rise in use among middle and high schools students nationally and in Florida.

Thomas Anderson, a SWAT student from Howard Middle School, shared some of the sobering statistics. "According to the CDC, the percentage of high school students using e-cigs... more than doubled between 2011 and 2012. The bad thing about this is that e-cigs... have nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug, more addictive than heroin. It's not a healthy thing. Until further research is done, proving that this is not a dangerous thing, they shouldn't be in front of the counter. They come in kid-friendly flavors, including vivid vanilla, cherry crush, chocolate. They're things that would appeal to kids, and they're extremely dangerous. So, I think this ordinance is very important."

Marion County SWAT
Members of the Marion County SWAT Chapter wait to educate the Commissioners.

Scott Hackmeyer, a local citizen and a member of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County, echoed the sentiment of the SWAT youth. "I too am worried about our children. I don't think there's been enough long-term studies done on e-cigarettes to know what potential harms there are to our kids if they start using e-cigarettes. Until that's done I think this is a very, very good ordinance, and I would encourage the Commission to pass this."

Mildred Grissom, a concerned citizen, spoke passionately about the potential for addiction. "My husband was a alcohol and drug abuse counselor in the state of Missouri. Cigarettes are a drug. It's a drug. I don't care if they're electronic. Anything that has nicotine in it, it's a drug. I support this ordinance."

Johnny Vapor, a local e-cigarette vendor, commended the SWAT youth for having the courage to speak in front of the Marion County Commissioners, but he did not completely agree with the proposed ordinance. "There's three sections [to the ordinance]. Two of them we totally agree with. No sale to minors... I think any shop owner would agree to that. The second point to have the displays behind the counter, not next to candy, 100% agree with that also. I think that's common sense."

Mr. Vapor then voiced his opposition to the section placing limited restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in work environments. "The third part, banning it where... traditional cigarettes are currently banned... that's the only part I really don't agree with," said Mr. Vapor. "It doesn't have tobacco, it's not smoke, it's vapor, which is essentially steam. It's a battery-power device that converts nicotine into vapor."

Manette Cheshareck, a member of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Marion County and a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist, disagreed with Mr. Vapor's assertion. "Vapor from electronic cigarette products is not just steam. It is not just water and nicotine like they are often advertised. The FDA has done studies that have proven that there are carcinogens found in some of the vapors. Now they haven't studied all of the brands... there are a lot of brands and more coming. For them to say that it is just water and nicotine is incorrect and misleading."

Jeff Wood, a user of electronic cigarettes as well as a vendor, also disagreed with the restrictions on public use in enclosed spaces. "Smoking bans are enacted to protect the public from harm of secondhand smoke, but e-cigarettes have not been shown to cause harm to bystanders... the only risks are to those of us using them. In the packets I submitted to you is the abstract... recently released by Professor Igor Burstyn, Drexel University School of Public Health. It confirms that chemicals in electronic cigarettes pose zero... no health effects for users or bystanders."

Mr. Wood also disputed the notion that flavors target children and teenagers. "The argument that flavors are targeting children is used to promote knee-jerk, feel-good legislation. All the approved quit products... gums and lozenges... are flavored. Yet no one has any doubt that they are for adult smokers."

Ms. Cheshareck addressed the differences between flavored tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, and flavored medications. "I am a Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist. The nicotine replacement products that are on the market... the gums and lozenges do come in different flavors, but they have been around for decades, are proven safe, there are not kids lined up to use them. The electronic cigarettes, we know, are increasing in use in our youth, and there's a reason for that."

Jessie King, another member of the Tobacco Free Partnership spoke briefly about the notion that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking. "If its supposed to help people stop smoking, it needs to be regulated as a medical device. The e-cigarette companies don't want to go through the extensive trials required for this, and they themselves have said they want it regulated as tobacco. Let's just regulate it as tobacco."

After public comment, Commissioner David Moore, who brought the ordinance forward, addressed the other Commissioners. "I don't want my nine-year son exposed to the effects of secondhand vaping. So, that's one thing that is critical is the protection and safety of our kids, because e-cigs are a drug delivery device."

" If you want to harm yourself, that's fine If you want to harm somebody else, that's not fine," Mr. Moore added. "That's the thing. It harms other people. We have our rights, and our rights extend to where the next person's rights pick up. And the next person's right is the right to be healthy. Because you have an addiction to nicotine, they don't have to get that same carcinogen into their body because of your addiction. That's why it should be in a separate place. Where smoking is not allowed, it [e-cigarette use] should not be allowed."

Commission Vice Chair Stan McClain, then added his support to the ordinance as written. "I was a little torn on the third part of this ordinance," said Mr. McClain, waving his copy of the Drexel study, "but actually, just reading through this, the four or five minutes that I had to do it, this convinces me that there is not enough information on the third part of this. There's not been enough scientific research done."

"Through this whole thing that you guys gave to me," continued Mr McClain, again waving the Drexel study, "it says 'however'... 'however, we haven't studied this'... 'however, we're not sure if this is going to work'... 'however we don't know the effects of this long-term yet'. And so I'm going to air on the side of caution. I think it's the right thing to do."

At the close of the public hearing, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners then voted unanimously to approve the ordinance in its entirety.

The action taken by the Marion County Board of County Commissioners to regulate electronic cigarettes illustrates the growing public health concern around these products. This action demonstrates local governments taking measures to protect its youth from nicotine addiction and to de-normalize the act of smoking, whether by traditional or electronic means. Vero Beach has joined a growing list of cities and counties that have passed age restrictions in the absence of federal or state law regulating the sale and marketing of these electronic nicotine delivery devices.

Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that electronic cigarette use among has doubled nationally in the last year, making health officials concerned. The CDC stated that 4.7% of high school students had used an electronic cigarette in 2011 and that number rose to 10% in 2012.

This has also led to an increase in use of these drug delivery devices by teenagers on school campuses, as discussed in this article in the Washington Post, published on November 14, 2013.

More information on electronic cigarettes is available in this article, published in the Wall Street Journal on November 10, 2013.

You can watch the entire discussion regarding the Marion County e-cigarette ordinance here:

Marion County BOCC passes E-Cigarette Ordinance