CLEVELAND, Tenn. - A number of e-cigarette vendors on Monday shared their concerns about the scope of proposed restrictions on increasingly popular "vaping" devices in Bradley County.
Last week, County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones announced plans to consider banning the use of e-cigarettes in county government buildings.
At a meeting Monday, Steve Nair, owner and manager of Mountain Oak Vapors, questioned Bradley County commissioners as more than two dozen e-cigarette business professionals and consumers listened.
"We don't exactly know what you guys are considering right now," Nair said. "We are certainly in support of you doing something in the county buildings, like the courthouse and town halls and things of this nature."
However, the small business owners that form the local community of e-cigarette vendors do not believe in government restrictions on private businesses, he said.
"We believe every business has their own voice in that if they want to permit the use of these products on the premises of their business, they should be free to choose to do so or not," Nair said.
Peak-Jones said any possible restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes would apply only to county buildings and properties.
Vendors of e-cigarettes also do not want their products "cornered and classified as a tobacco product or cigarette," Nair said.
"We believe these products are life-changing and revolutionary," he said. "We believe they are a benefit to public health."
"I do think there is a sensitivity shared by all of us [the Bradley County Commission] not to associate this as a tobacco product, because it's not," said Commissioner J. Adam Lowe, who is the panel's vice chairman. "Terminology matters."
Commissioners themselves have voiced concerns about possible restrictions.
"I believe when we ban things, it opens the doors for big government," said Commissioner Jeff Yarber.
He is unsure how he will vote on the issue, Yarber said, citing similar concerns about how -- as a nonsmoker -- he opposed a ban on tobacco use.
Peak-Jones announced plans to review the question in full detail at the next meeting of the Bradley County Commission on May 27. The panel's next voting session is June 2.
"I wanted us to do our due diligence in researching the issue," Peak-Jones said in a text message after the meeting.
"We don't know all the health effects of e-cigarette vapor yet, but we don't need wait to address this issue," she said recently. "I know I don't want to have to breathe all those chemicals, and I don't think the public should either."
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.