Alachua County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson is drafting an ordinance that will place new regulations on e-cigarettes.
According to the Medical News Today website, e-cigarettes are devices that emit doses of vaporized nicotine, as opposed to regular cigarettes that emit tobacco smoke.
The potential restrictions would include banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, as well as limiting the use to designated smoking areas and placing e-cigarretes behind counters in stores.
A public forum on e-cigarettes, organized by Tobacco Free Alachua, will take place Friday at the Alachua County Library District Headquarters at 2 p.m. Hutchinson will be a keynote speaker and will explain the policies that he hopes will be in place through the draft ordinance.
Hutchinson said he believes e-cigarettes should not be looked at any differently than other tobacco products solely because of a legal loophole.
“We should be treating e-cigarettes the same as we do cigarettes,” Hutchinson said. “We should not be discriminating against e-cigarettes just because this product uses a vapor instead of smoke.”
According to Hutchinson, Alachua is a “trend-setter” in the sense that many young people in Florida come to the county for college. Because of this fact, Hutchinson said he feels it is crucial to have regulations put into place to steer young people away from the use of any type of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
He also said counties like Alachua trying to pass ordinances regulating e-cigarettes will “put pressure on the legislature and congress to get on board, because they’ve moved very slow in this area.”
Hutchinson said this issue belongs in the hands of state and federal regulators, but if or when this changes over, counties are responsible for making the community aware of this issue.
Currently, there is a proposed bill in the Florida Senate that will classify e-cigarettes as an alternative nicotine product or nicotine dispensing device and will prevent the sale to minors.
Some people aren’t convinced that the new classifications are necessary. In a previous article, WUFT News reported:
Dr. Barry Hummel is communications director at the Tobacco Prevention Network of Florida. He said the state’s push for the classification of e-cigarettes as an alternative is an unnecessary new category that deepens the complexities of the issues with regulation and classification of e-cigarettes.
Andrew Romero, the tobacco prevention specialist at Tobacco Free Alachua, said that there wasn’t enough research and data from his sector yet to back up claims of whether or not e-cigarettes are harmful.WUFT also reported:
With increasing number of brand differentiations and the lack of regulations, Romero said it becomes difficult to formulate a general consensus on e-cigarettes since no one really knows exactly what’s in them.
“All the different manufacturers make them according to their own specifications,” he said. “From brand to brand, you may find different chemicals and consistencies of nicotine. When a company says it has a safe amount of nicotine, you are basically just taking their word on it because there is absolutely no oversight.”