For Sooner State’s fans of e-cigarettes, good news and bad news

OKLAHOMA CITY — For Oklahoma fans of e-cigarettes, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news?

In addition to Ada’s ban on use of e-cigs in public places, as reported last week, the town of Shawnee passed an ordinance equating vapor with tobacco smoke.

The good news?

Regents for Oklahoma State University delayed action on a similar measure to stop use of electronic vapor devices on campus.

On a 4-3 vote, members of the Shawnee city commission enacted a measure much like the Ada ordinance.

The new law makes a more stringent existing law — referred to as a “baseline” ordinance – that restricted tobacco use in some public areas. 

The Shawnee measure extends the ban on public use of tobacco, and would add e-cigarettes to the list of items that cannot be used in public.

Johnna Ray reported for the Techumseh Countywide News that city officials pushed the measure for two reasons: “(1) to bring current restrictions in line with other cities’ and the state’s initiatives to reduce injury or illness related to tobacco and (2) to help the city qualify for a healthy communities grant.” 

Similarly, in the Ada debate, eligibility for larger anti-tobacco grants from the state Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and Oklahoma Turning Point — both of which are encouraging communities to ban or limit tobacco-free products – was given as a reason for the new stricter provisions. 

The Ada vote was also close, with the ordinance clearing 3-2 in the city council. Since that vote, there has been local discussion of the wisdom of the ban, which passed without an emergency provision – leaving time for reconsideration of the issue. 

As for that Ada ordinance, in an email to Oklahoma Watchdog local resident Frank Stout said adequate notice of the new ordinance’s subject matter was posted, in keeping with state law. As in Shawnee, the emergency clause was not enacted, meaning the measure does not take effect for another three weeks.

“Vapes,” as fans sometimes call e-cigarettes in various forms, have grown popular with consumers in the state’s largest cities, but some businesses have begun to take private action to put the kabash on the products.

The drive to equate non-tobacco e-cigarettes with tobacco use is relatively new in the Sooner State, and recent developments have drawn some fresh critical scrutiny. 

The state Regents for OSU and the agricultural and mechanical colleges had announced plans to push through a ban on e-cigarette products, with the vote initially scheduled for last Friday.

Thursday, however, the Regents said they would hold off on a vote because the proposal had not gone through “normal processes” before being slated on the formal agenda. 

Administrators at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond have already banned e-cigarettes on campus, as have the Regents for the University of Oklahoma. 

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