The regulation came after the town received several complaints of people using e-cigarettes inside the Freestone Recreation Center. Councilwoman Jenn Daniels said she had seen people using them in the Town Hall lobby.
The council first discussed an e-cigarette ordinance in June, but held off until council members spoke with supporters, opponents and businesses.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices and release a vapor that contains nicotine but no tobacco.
The Food and Drug Administration has yet to regulate e-cigarettes, and there is little conclusive research regarding the long-term effects of inhaling e-cigarette vapor. Some states and cities have taken regulation into their own hands, including Arizona, which prohibits minors from purchasing them.
In August, Tempe became the first city in Arizona to regulate e-cigarettes with an amendment prohibiting their use in public areas, including private businesses and workplaces. Neighboring Guadalupe passed a similar ordinance around the same time.
The Tempe prohibition angered e-cigarette supporters, who argue that e-cigarettes are an effective way to break cigarette addiction.
E-cigarette opponents, including the activist group Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, lauded Tempe’s amendment, saying that e-cigarettes reinforce the image of regular smoking.
“We have tried to de-normalize the use of tobacco products in public,” Gilbert resident Mike Evans, of Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, said. “The effort with e-cigarette people is to have e-cigs be able to replace tobacco use in public, and that’s too mixed a message to send to young people.”
After hosting two “stakeholder” meetings, the Gilbert Council voted on an ordinance that would only prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed town-owned facilities.
“I think they just kind of came to a middle ground on the whole thing personally,” T.J. Grant, owner of Gilbert e-cigarette retailer Offbeat and Unique, said. “I don’t think it’s right that some people vape in court and in the library where there are people in close proximity, but anywhere else I think it should be at the desire of the business owner.”
Matt Morales, of the National Association of Vaping Businesses, who was critical of Tempe’s prohibition, praised Gilbert’s more measured approach.
“It’s very, very, very not often that we actually see a regulation designed correctly,” Morales said. “One thing you have been very good about is listening to our needs the last several months and being very good about reviewing the science.”
E-cigarette opponents said that although the ordinance is a good first step, they wished it had gone further.
“The city of Tempe and the town of Guadalupe have already amended their tobacco policies-control policies recently to include e-cigarettes, and we strongly encourage Gilbert to do the same for all Gilbert workplaces,” Philip Carpenter, executive director of Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, said.
Councilwoman Daniels said the council has no plans to regulate e-cigarette usage in private businesses or workplaces. What is on the table, Daniels said, is prohibiting e-cigarette usage in Gilbert’s public parks, where it is currently legal to smoke even regular tobacco products.
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