At its April meeting, the Dunn County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to add e-cigarettes to the county’s ban on smoking in public buildings and grounds.

Although the prohibition is extended to the Dunn County Recreation Park, it does not include other county parks or inside private vehicles.

While noting that research on the dangers of electronic cigarettes is still ongoing, Public Health Director Wendy MacDougall told the board, “This has bubbled to the top as a public health issue. All public health issues include a balance of individual rights as well as the impact to those who are affected by people exercising those rights.”

Like the smoke of a regular cigarette, the electronic version produces a cloud of vapor. “The American Lung Assn ... found carcinogens in the second-hand emissions,” she explained. “And there can also be chemical sensitivies and allergic reactions if you’re adjacent to somebody using. ... It’s not just water which is the way they’re promoted.”

MacDougall pointed out that there are 250 unregulated companies that product the juice that goes into the cartridges — all of which contain nicotine, known to be a highly-addictive neurotoxin that has negative health impacts on fetal development and adolescent brain development.

“There’s been an uptick in local poison control reports because the nicotine juice can be absorbed through the skin, and people buy the juice in quantities and add to these products,” MacDougall reported. “Children under five can get into it and ingest it. It can be poisonous to adults, too.”

She pointed out that some vapers — as those who inhale the vapor from e-cigarettes are known — also add oils from cocaine and marijuana to the “juice”. And there’s no content label on the regular mixture, most of which contains at least 80 percent propylene glycol, a form of formaldehyde known to cause cancer.

Then there are serious environmental issues. E-cigarettes glow at the end and contain a lithium battery, MacDougall added: “They need to be recycling or properly disposed of. ... Talking to George Hayduckso [Dunn County Solid Waste Director], there’s a six-step process at Earth 911 that describes all the things you need to do to safely dispose of the cartridge because the nicotine left behind can be toxic to animals.”

As of January 2014, there were 108 municipalities in three states that include e-cigarettes as a product prohibited within their smoke-free environments. And a wide variety of health organizations like the American Medical Association, American Lung Assocation and American Academy of Pediatrics that has recommended a ban.

“If you’re at the fairgrounds and there’s no smoking allowed, you smell manure, you know it’s manure, you smell coffee, you know it’s coffee,” MacDougall said. “You see cloud like that, it’s kind of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You don’t really know enough about it to know what’s going on.

“There’s no demonstrated public health benefit to the devices,” she told the supervisors. “If you look at quality of life, this certainly fits with the goals you’ve outlined.”

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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