Oklahoma City Council Member Pete White hangs back on e-cig ban

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City Council Member Pete White is not a fan of e-cigarettes, but says he is, for the moment, holding off on an ordinance to ban the devices.

White said he is waiting for some guidance from Oklahoma City’s attorney. Further, he says he would prefer to have something “definitive” from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before moving forward.

That’s not all. He said, in an e-mail interview, “I have to admit that, in some cases, e-cigarettes have enabled some to stop smoking standard cigarettes.”

In November, the veteran city politician had told this reporter he wanted city legal staff to prepare the issue for consideration.

At the time, he was aiming at a ban of e-cig use on public land, and/or other regulation.

White said recent weeks gave him “an opportunity to review some of the science out there with regard to e-cigarettes and I find the opinions to be all over the map. I had hoped the FDA would make a definitive statement by this time but it has not.”

Councilman White elaborated on his mixed views, in response to Oklahoma Watchdog’s questions: “I have a great concern about the use of tobacco and big tobacco companies that promote e-cigarettes. I have to admit that, in some cases, e-cigarettes have enabled some to stop smoking standard cigarettes. …

“The use of tobacco still is a leading cause of health problems for our citizens and contributes greatly to the City’s cost of health insurance. The fact that their lobbyists (big tobacco and e-cigarettes) are the same folks is more than an interesting coincidence.”

In an exchange with CapitolBeatOK, White hinted it might be awhile before he has any local ordinance ready for consideration: “I am trying to find out as much as I can about the effects of the product before moving forward.”

At the state Capitol, meanwhile, at least two bills remain under consideration in the Legislature that might provide some statewide protection for e-cigarettes, which have been largely unregulated in Oklahoma until recently.

The pending proposals, which might come before the Legislature within days, would limit youth access to e-cigarettes while, simultaneously, putting roadblocks in the way of mounting efforts to equate the products with tobacco.

In related news, this week the Tahlequah City Council discussed an ordinance that would ban use of personal vaporizers – as many advocates prefer to describe e-cigarettes. 
However, the body is Not scheduled to vote on it formally until March 24.

Tahlequah Council rules require two readings before taking final action.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) has issued grants financing grass roots efforts to equate e-cigarettes , which do not contain tobacco,

with tobacco products, drawing critical scrutiny from some state analysts.

During Christmas week of last year, Gov. Mary Fallin through an executive order, dismayed fans of e-cigarettes when she banned their use on state property. However, the move delighted health officials pushing to ban or severely limit the products and/or to equate the devices with tobacco for purposes of taxation and regulation.