E-cigarette ban goes up in smoke

E-cigarettes will not be added to the tobacco ban at the Grand Traverse Co. Civic Center.

The plan to ban e-cigarettes from a northern Michigan park was shot down Thursday night.

Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation commissioners voted to allow e-cigarettes at the Civic Center.

The initial tobacco ban was put in place in 2010 to limit secondhand smoke and its dangers, as well as to offer an environment where kids aren't exposed to people smoking.

â??This was just basically updating it to today's language,â?? explained Lisa Danto, coordinator for the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition.

There are signs posted throughout the park regarding the tobacco ban, but park rangers say up until now, e-cigarettes have been a grey area.

â??I'm kind of left in the position of what do I do?â?? said Ryan Walsh, a Civic Center Park Ranger.

Walsh was at the meeting Thursday night to encourage commissioners to pass a ban on electronic cigarettes at the Grand Traverse County park. He says more and more kids are picking up the habit because it looks cool.

â??Hardly any adult use them there; it's mainly the younger demographic,â?? said Walsh. â??While our presence is there, most of the time, everybody behaves and nothing goes on, but as soon as we walk away, everybody's pulling out their cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

Commissioners were divided on the issue, raising concerns of enforcing the ban and how much local government should be involved.

â??Who are we to make health decisions?â?? posed Commissioner Peter Doren.

In the end, they voted 5-4 against the ban. The commissioner who first proposed the addition to the ban was not present at the meeting. Even with his vote in favor of it, the ban would not have gone through.

â??Iâ??m very disappointed,â?? said Danto. â??I really thought the last meeting that based on some of their comments we probably had enough votes for it to pass. I didn't think it would be this close.â??

Representatives from A Clean Cigarette are pleased with the decision. They say parents should have the final say when it comes to their kids being around the devices.

â??It's our responsibility as community members to teach our children,â?? said Robert Richardson, franchise owner of A Clean Cigarette in Traverse City. â??Iâ??m happy that they're not just throwing it away. Of course, it's never good to just throw something away that you don't have enough information about.â??

Commissioners say they don't want to throw out the proposal. They want to wait until more research is done on the impacts of electronic cigarettes.

For now, park rangers will stick to enforcing the tobacco ban as-is, but Walsh remains optimistic.

â??I think in good time it will be passed.â??