E-cigarettes and other vaping devices are now restricted in certain areas of Wheaton.
The city council approved a new smoke- and vape-free ordinance in a 5-0 vote Monday in an effort to "protect the public health, comfort and environment" and ensure nonsmokers and non-vapers can "breathe air free from the hazardous effects of secondhand smoke and alternative nicotine products." Mayor Michael Gresk and Councilman Todd Scalzo were absent.
E-cigarettes often mimic the look of a tobacco cigarette, with a plastic or glass rod, but they do not contain tar or produce a combustible smoke. The devices create a liquid-based mist that delivers the nicotine, flavor and other chemicals to the user through inhalation.
Like other tobacco products in Wheaton, e-cigarettes are now banned from all enclosed public places and places of employment; in open-air public dining areas; at outdoor events; in Adams and Memorial parks; on public sidewalks within 25 feet of public entrances and open-air dining areas; and within 25 feet of an outdoor venue during an outdoor event.
Exemptions were granted to retailers whose principal business is the retail sale of tobacco and tobacco-related products.
Anyone who smokes or vapes in areas where it is prohibited will now face fines between $100 and $250 per offense. Owners, managers and operators of any space that permits smoking or vaping where it is prohibited by the city will face a fine of $250 or more for the first violation and at least $500 for the second violation within a year.
The ordinance also calls for owners to post "no smoking or vaping" signs in areas where smoking and vaping are prohibited.
According to the ordinance, the council adopted findings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, that said the solution used in e-cigarettes contains toxic chemicals found in antifreeze and other cancer-causing chemicals, as well as findings from the New England Journal of Medicine that said pre-vaping liquid breaks down into formaldehyde.
One resident, Kraig Knudsen, spoke against the ordinance. He said he has worked in the tobacco industry for more than 30 years and while he believes the intent of the city's ordinance is good, it might lead to "unintended consequences."
"Most users of these products are using them in an effort to reduce or eliminate their dependency on nicotine entirely," he said. "You'd be limiting people that are using these products as a cessation device."
Councilwoman Suzanne Fitch noted, however, that the "alternative nicotine products" banned by the city in the ordinance excludes any product approved by the FDA as a tobacco cessation product or tobacco dependency product.
"Of course we don't want to ban something that's going to help people to quit smoking, but I think that this definition is well-drafted in that regard," she said.