East Ridge considers restricting e-cigarettes

East Ridge considers restricting e-cigarettes

May 10th, 2014 by Alex Harris in Local Regional News

Ashley Hartman, left, is aided by Danielle McCorkle during her first day working at Sweet Creek Vapors in East Ridge, Tennessee, on May 9, 2014.

Ashley Hartman, left, is aided by Danielle McCorkle...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Ashley Hartman looks through new flavors of "e-juice" while at Sweet Creek Vapors in East Ridge, Tennessee, on May 9, 2014.

Ashley Hartman looks through new flavors of "e-juice"...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Store manager Jessica Tyron uses her e-cig while waiting for a customer at Sweet Creek Vapors in East Ridge.

Store manager Jessica Tyron uses her e-cig while...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.


Vapor, not smoke: Vaporizers, also known as e-cigarettes, do not produce a combustible "smoke" like traditional cigarettes, nor do they contain tar. Rather, they contain a small battery that converts a liquid from small cartridges into a water-based vapor. The health effects of the vapor are still unclear, officials say.

Outside: They come in many forms, but most often look like a plastic or glass cigarette or pen-sized cylinder.

Inside: The juice in the liquid cartridges contain a range of flavorings, along with various amounts of tobacco-based nicotine, synthetic nicotine, or no nicotine at all. They may also contain chemicals such as propylene glycol, acetaldehyde, acrolein, formaldehyde and tobacco-specific nitrosamines.

Cost: The juices typically cost around $6 each and last about a week, depending on the user.

Sources: World Health Organzation, Vapor Tonics, National Conference of State Legislatures, Tennessee Health Department, Times Free Press archives

POLL: Should e-cigarettes be banned in public places?

East Ridge could become the first Tennessee municipality to restrict e-cigarettes, bringing them under its policy banning tobacco use on city property.

But first, Marc Gravitt, the city councilman who proposed adding vaping to the city's tobacco ban, wants to take a look at loosening the current restrictions.

"I think it over-reaches," Gravitt said of the law. Passed by the council on July 26, 2012, it bans tobacco use on all city property, including the more than 250 acres at Camp Jordan.

"You can go out there in a field, and be out there all by yourself, all alone at the back end by the creek, and you can't smoke a cigarette or put a dip in, or whatever, and not bother anyone."

In 2012, the East Ridge council considered fully prohibiting tobacco use on city property or designating smoking areas. The city manager at the time, Tim Gobble, told the council that it would be easiest to ban tobacco outright. The ban doesn't include city streets and sidewalks.

Gravitt said he wants to include e-cigs because someone came into City Hall using one a few weeks ago, and he thought that loophole should be addressed before it became an issue.

But Gravitt said the law should include distance requirements from sports fields and permanent structures, rather than be written as an all-out ban of tobacco.

Gravitt said he expects to bring the issues up before the council next month.

E-cigs do not produce a combustible "smoke" like lit cigarettes, and they do not contain tar. Health groups are divided over whether vaping is a good alternative to smoking, or if it's trading one harmful habit for another. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for a long-term study of their impact on health.

"There is no tobacco in an electronic cigarette. So, to classify them as a tobacco product is more harmful to the citizens of East Ridge than it would be beneficial," said Dimitis Agrafiotis, co-owner of Portofino's in East Ridge, founder of the Scenic City Vapors Club and the executive director of the Tennessee Smokefree Association.

"I would prefer that [the City Council] get more education on the subject before they vote on it. It's very premature, especially for people who don't smoke or vape, to understand the concept," Agrafiotis said.

Since 2007, sales of e-cigs have doubled each year, according to USA Today. Some state and local governments have taken steps to regulate the products.

State lawmakers in Georgia and Tennessee have passed laws to prohibit minors from buying vaporizers.

And as of January, three states and 108 municipalities had prohibited the use of e-cigs in smoke-free environments, according to Americans for Non-smokers Rights, a nonprofit.

But so far no Tennessee municipalities are included in that list, Agrafiotis said.

Alabama, on the other hand, defines e-cigarettes as an alternative nicotine product, separate from tobacco.

Jessica Tryon, the manager at Sweet Creek Vapors, said she has researched the topic.

"I don't believe that it falls in the same category as a cigarette," Tryon said. "I've done research on it, and compared to what is in this, as to what is in a cigarette, I'd much rather have somebody sitting next to me smoking an electronic cigarette than blowing a cigarette in my face."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.