The Grand Island City Council deserves a big thank you from its constituents for its unanimous vote on Aug. 27 to prohibit the use of vaping devices in public places.
The ordinance will go into effect Wednesday, the same day that the state of Nebraska increases the minimum age to legally possess and purchase tobacco and tobacco products, including vaping products, from 18 to 19.
Stacy Nonhof, interim city attorney, researched the issue after Councilman Chuck Haase brought it up several months ago. She presented her research to the council last month and every member was immediately willing to support the amendment to City Code.
This is a common sense move, since Grand Island has prohibited smoking in public place since 2008 and e-cigarettes include nicotine, just like cigarettes and cigars. According to the Center on Addiction, e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol. But many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease, just like smoking.
Yet e-cigarettes are not regulated by the federal government. It’s up to local and state governments to ensure the health of their residents and the Grand Island City Council understands that vaping poses a risk to the public, just like cigarettes do.
When the council voted to prohibit tobacco smoking in public places, it did so before the state passed a similar ban. Again, Grand Island is taking the lead in addressing a serious health issue.
There will be pushback from businesses and from people who see this as another infringement on their rights. Vaping businesses market their products as a good alternative to smoking to help smokers quit. But e-cigarettes do contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has now identified more than 450 possible cases of serious breathing issues linked to vaping, including five deaths, in 33 states. Many of these cases are in teenagers.
Recently, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services confirmed it is investigating several possible causes of severe pulmonary disease associated with vaping as four possible cases of the disease have been reported to the state.
The Omaha World-Herald has reported that, generally, these cases have been in patients who have been healthy and in their late teens and 20s and experienced respiratory symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath or chest pain. Some have experienced nausea and vomiting. In most cases, symptoms have come on suddenly, but in some cases, they’ve manifested over several weeks.
There also are serious concerns about teens developing vaping habits.
The 2018 Nebraska Risk and Protective Factor Student Survey reported that in Grand Island, 47% of 12th-grade students, 31% of 10th-grade students and 20% of eighth-grade students stated that they had tried vaping one or more times.
The law will now prohibit the use of vaping devices in public. Vaping devices may include, but are not be limited to, e-cigarettes, vape pens, advanced personal vaporizers (MODS), JUUL’s or any other device whether professionally made or homemade that are designed and used to inhale vapor products.
The Grand Island City Council is being proactive in trying to get ahead of a serious health issue. As the public smoking ban was accepted by the community more than a decade ago, we expect the public to follow this law and appreciate the ability to be out in public without being exposed to harmful chemicals.