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Council looking at regulations for e-cigarettes

Last Modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 2:56 PM

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.

Posted By: Karen Morgan On: 2/14/2014

Title: Really? Whats next?

Dana Jackson said restrictions need to be put into place, why is that? E cigs are a safe alternative to smoking and I personally would not have been able to quit smoking without this very valuable tool. Have you stopped to consider that coffee contains caffeine? Do you want to monitor that too? What about alcohol being consumed in restaurants by patrons who can at times use vulgar language in the presence of children because they are intoxicated! Are you going to regulate that too? I think this is ridiculous and until Mr. Jackson can show proof that people are affected by the second hand "vapor" (its not harmful to people being exposed to it) He needs to chill out and quit trying to be the "hall monitor" isn't there other more important things you could be doing like helping reduce crime, getting drugs away from our kids? Smokers are the first ones to get taxed, regulated and I'm tired of it! Pick on somebody else for a change!

Posted By: LC Resident On: 2/13/2014

Title: Restrictions

How about upholding all the present laws on the books. Councilman Jackson along with his cohorts want to restrict us into communism. The City Council of L.C. is becoming more and more intrusive into the residents lives of the city. This is just one more example.

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