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County to address e-cigs in policy

Profile image for By Bj Lewis
By Bj Lewis

Commissioners looking into adjusting rules for government buildings

Denton County commissioners will take another week to decide how vaping and e-cigarettes relate to the county’s smoking policy.

Human resources director Amy Phillips placed the item on the agenda due to concerns and some complaints from employees, but Commissioners Andy Eads and Ron Marchant said they needed more time to research the issue before putting forth a vote.

“I have such a lack of understanding with that product,” Marchant said of electronic cigarettes during Tuesday’s meeting.

Over the past year, Phillips has fielded several calls from county employees concerned about vaping and department heads wondering if they could prohibit it in their departments. There were also complaints from people who simply found it annoying.

“Sometimes in breakrooms, not necessarily in their office,” Phillips said of where vaping was taking place. “It’s a new thing and I didn’t really know how the commissioners felt about it.”

The current smoking policy, which affects county employees, volunteers and people using county facilities, prohibits smoking in county buildings, while driving in county vehicles and while operating equipment. This policy also includes chewing tobacco.

“I know we have several people who use the e-cigarettes to stop smoking, so I know there was some support for them and we weren’t trying to ban them,” Phillips said. “We just wanted to say that should be an outdoor activity like cigarettes are and incorporate it into the policy we already have.”

County Judge Mary Horn and Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell said that they did not want to ban e-cigarettes either, as some studies have shown they help people cease using regular cigarettes. Horn suggested, along with Eads, to table the policy vote until next week. Mitchell agreed, if there was additional information to learn about the issue.

County Health Director Matt Richardson took the floor briefly to provide some information about the ongoing research into the smoking alternative that has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years.

“There are a lot of distinct studies to claim [there are] known carcinogens when people use these products,” he said.

Among the concerns is the aerosolization of liquid nicotine and secondhand vapor. Richardson said the dangers are documented when it comes to cigarette smoking, but much is still unknown about vaping.

Commissioner Hugh Coleman asked if he could install any rules while commissioners agreed to a policy update, and he was told he could.

“If it’s at work, we should not be forced to be exposed to other people’s [vaping],” he said. “It’s different at restaurants and bars.”

Commissioners are expected to discuss the policy further next week.

Bj LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjLewisDRC.