- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DERBY, Kan. (AP) - Electronic cigarettes will be permitted in public buildings in a southern Kansas county under a newly approved policy.

The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1QjR92D ) reports that the Sedgwick County commission took up the issue Monday night.

The county’s tobacco policy didn’t previously address e-cigarettes, or vaping devices. The new policy was approved with a 3-2 vote. It clarifies that employees and customers can use unflavored e-cigarettes.

Anti-tobacco groups fear that vaporizers are enticing to young people and may encourage them to eventually take up smoking.

“They’re designed for tobacco smokers to continue to get their nicotine fix in places they’re not allowed to smoke,” said Michael Weaver, medical director of the Center for Neurobehavorial Research on Addiction at the University of Texas in Houston. “It’s actually an incentive to continue smoking as opposed to quit smoking.”

Others say the devices are a less harmful, tar-free alternative to cigarettes.

“I think we need to get over it,” said Jim Howell, chairman of the commission, who first brought up the issue to the commission in November. “These are not cigarettes, these are not tobacco, it’s water vapor.”

E-cigarettes, which are electronic devices with a cartridge and heater that vaporize liquid nicotine, are currently unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Your policy makers may want to consider the fact that electronic cigarettes are not currently regulated, so they’re trying to write public policy for an unregulated substance,” Weaver said.

They have not been extensively studied, and there is no scientific consensus on their risks.

“The controversy itself is probably enough to justify us holding off on this,” said Dave Unruh, who gave one of the dissenting votes.

Each county department will be able to set its own designated areas for customers and employees who want to vape indoors. Howell said he expects that department managers at customer-oriented offices will put restrictions on use.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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