Council looking at regulations for e-cigarettes

By By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

To get an idea of how popular

electronic cigarettes are in the area, stop by The Cigar Club on East

Prien Lake Road. The shop

has been open for nearly a decade, crafting its image as a place

known for carrying premium cigars. For the last few months,

right past the front doors, a glass display case and the wall

behind it have been filled with the increasingly popular electronic

cigarettes and accessories.

As the e-cigs’ consumer base grows, so

does the number of questions about the product. According to the U.S.

Food and Drug

Administration, studies have yet to be completed on the potential

risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended; how much nicotine

or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during

use; and whether there are benefits associated with using

the device. The real issue of the moment is how to classify and

regulate the technology.

During a recent City Council meeting,

councilman Dana Jackson discussed the e-cigs and their prevalence in the

city. He told

the council restrictions need to be put in place. Next week’s

regular City Council meeting will feature an item amending the

city’s code of ordinances regarding e-cigs.

Electronic cigarettes are battery powered and use a heating element to vaporize synthetic nicotine for users to inhale and

expel.

In response to the possible ordinance from the council, a petition was recently started by local vendors asking the council

to reconsider the amendment.

Robbin Halker is the owner of The Cigar

Club, the first place in the city to begin carrying the devices and

their accessories.

She’s watched as countless customers have come in to sign the

petition, some more emotional about the possible restrictions

than others. Halker said her hope is that people remain level

headed about the e-cig topic.

“I want to encourage people to go to the City Council meeting and speak about the issue and if they do, they should do it

in the right way,” Halker said. “This ordinance doesn’t affect us as a business. It affects the consumer.”

Only recently have restrictions on the

devices been talked about in the state of Louisiana. State Sen. Rick

Gallot, D-Ruston,

is putting forth a bill focused on age restrictions. The bill

would put provisions in place for electronic cigarettes and

other nicotine products that are used to protect young people from

regular cigarettes. The bill would add the language “any

alternative nicotine product” to existing regulations.

Outside of that, the device is, for the most part, unrestricted. If the City Council’s amendment is primarily focused on public

use and gets approved, Lake Charles would be one of the first cities in the region to pass such an ordinance.

As of Wednesday in The Cigar Club, there were 16 pages filled with signatures in support of the petition. Each page had 12

slots for names, addresses and comments.

Halker pointed out that the products

are only available to customers over age 18. On one of the e-cig boxes, a

marker showing

the product couldn’t be sold to minors was displayed on the side.

Halker said customers choose to use the devices for a number

of reasons. She said some use the product to quit smoking while

others just prefer the flavored tobacco.

“All this is is an alternative to smoking. That’s all it is,” Halker said.