CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Where there's vapor, there might as well be smoke, the Bradley County Commission decided.
A late-night Monday ban on the use of electronic cigarettes and other vapor products within all buildings owned or leased by Bradley County passed that panel in a 9-1 vote.
"My resolution was not meant to gun for [product users], it was meant to gun for what we cannot see in the vapor products," sponsor Charlotte Peak-Jones said, citing relatives she said experimented with using substances other than vapor "juice" in the devices. "I'm all for vapor products, I'm not against them. I'm against what I cannot see coming out of them."
Commissioners Terry Caywood, Jeff Morelock, Brian Smith and Bill Ledford were absent during the vote.
"I believe we are kind of gunning for e-cigarette users, and I can't support that," said Commissioner Jeff Yarber, who cast the lone opposing vote. "The studies I've seen on e-cigarettes and vapor products are inconclusive as far as [effects] being negative."
On Tuesday, a number of people at the Bradley County Courthouse said they had no strong feelings one way or the other about the vapor products ban.
However, the new regulation received some support.
"I know they [e-cigarettes] are supposed to be safer and all, but they still make you look like you're smoking and I find that repulsive," said Don Akins, who said he lost his father to lung cancer. "I prefer them not to be used in public buildings."
Peak-Jones said she had received phone calls from people with concerns similar to hers and that Bradley officials needed to take action now instead of waiting for the state to move forward with any possible vapor product regulation.
The Bradley County resolution is effective immediately, but includes no specifics about possible fines or enforcement.
Several local electronic cigarette vendors and users have expressed support for the county's prerogative to regulate vapor product use in county buildings.
"I don't have a problem with it," said Sean Taylor, an 18-year-old customer of Mountain Oak Vapors on North Lee Highway. "I'm kind of biased, but I don't flaunt it if people are uncomfortable with it. I'm a courteous user."
"The only problem a lot us had with any proposed local ban is any possible lumping of vapor products in with tobacco," said Steve Nair, owner and manager of Mountain Oak Vapors. "They have nothing in common."
The commission also discussed the cost of posting new signs at the entrances of each county building that state they are "tobacco-free, smoke-free and vapor-free environments."
"Somebody's going to have to buy them, but we don't say who's going to have to buy them [in the resolution]," Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said.
Commissioner Ed Elkins said he would be satisfied with cost-efficient, computer-generated signs if they were nice.
Statutory requirements for the vapor-free signs, which are comparable to "no smoking" signs, must be researched first, County Attorney Crystal Freiberg said.
Cleveland city leaders have not discussed enacting a prohibition on vapor product use in city government buildings, Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.