By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – The Tupelo City Council voted to drastically curtail the use of e-cigarettes, and relaxed restrictions on tobacco.
In a 5-1 vote on Tuesday, the council banned the use of e-cigarettes at most restaurants and businesses.
“It’s not a ban like something is declared illegal,” Mayor Jason Shelton said before the vote. “It’s a ban on using the product in public.”
The vote was an amendment to Tupelo’s existing smoking ordinance.
It will allow people to use e-cigarettes in retail stores that make 50 percent or more of their money from the sale of e-cigarette products.
That compromise wasn’t allowed in an earlier version of the amendment. The compromise also affects tobacco products.
The vote allows people to smoke in tobacco shops that make 50 percent or more of their money from the sale of tobacco products. Tobacco smokers will not be allowed to smoke in e-cigarette shops.
The new rules will go into effect 30 days after Shelton signs the amendment. He indicated that he would sign off on the new rules.
“I think it’s a pretty fair compromise,” Shelton said.
Nettie Davis, Ward 4 councilwoman, voted against the ban.
“I want citizens to have freedom to be selective of what they choose to do or not to do,” Davis said.
Before the vote, it was acknowledged by those for and against the ban that the effects of secondhand vapor have not been proven to be harmful by the Food and Drug Administration.
Teri Wolfenbarger of Tupelo said there has been misinformation about propylene glycol, one of the ingredients of e-cigarettes. She said it is used in antifreeze, but it’s there to make it less toxic.
“Other uses for (propylene glycol) include baby wipes, asthma inhalers, theatrical fog machines, cake mixes, salad dressings, room deodorizers, and as a base for fragrance oils just to name a few,” she said.
Alison Farris, co-owner of Druthers Vape Shoppe in Tupelo, said she appreciated the compromise to allow people to use e-cigarettes at her store, but she thought the public ban would put the health of e-cigarette users in jeopardy.
Many users are former smokers, and the ban requires them to use e-cigarettes at sites approved for smokers.
“That would be forcing us back into harm,” she said.
Stephanie Collier with the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition of Chickasaw and Lee counties, said the public ban would help discourage young people from using e-cigarettes. She also had concerns about the compromise.
“Are we going to let people come into liquor stores and test their products?” Collier said.