Proposed e-cigarette ban gets park-goers talking

Smoking has been against the rules at the Civic Center since 2010. Now county leaders are determining whether or not e-cigarettes should be added to the ban.

The Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Department is considering banning e-cigarettes from the Civic Center.

Commissioners first brought the issue up a month ago because there is a growing number of kids using electronic cigarettes at the skate park.

Commissioners decided to take the first step, determining whether or not that's a problem the government should tackle.

The Parks and Rec leaders are looking at amending a current rule put in place in 2010 which bans tobacco use in county parks. They would be adding on electronic or e-cigarette to that rule.

What started as a seemingly small issue is turning into a statewide matter.

â??We're not legislators, and we don't create laws,â?? said Alisa Kroupa. â??We are the first parks department to look at doing this. So we'd be precedent setters in the state.

When the issue was brought to commissioners, Kroupa decided to head back to the books and spoke with the ordinance authors. She found out the original rule was put in place for two reasons: to prevent second hand smoke exposure and to avoid kids seeing people smoke.

â??I have a bunch of kids, they play over there all the time,â?? said Jeremy Holliday, who agrees with extending the ban to e-cigarettes. â??I don't want them seeing it, I don't want them being around it. They don't need to be exposed to it. It's all got nicotine in it. That's why it was banned in the first place.â??

â??Little kids aren't going to know the difference between e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes or other tobacco products,â?? said Dennis Labelle of Traverse City.

Since the health impacts of e-cigarettes are relatively unknown at this point, some people disagree with the proposed ban.

â??Kids are going to see things,â?? countered Doug Cherry of Traverse City. â??You can't blind them from the world. You have to teach them right from wrong and let them see everything. You have to be a parent. You can't just hide them from things. As long as it's not causing a health problem for other people, I don't have a problem with it.â??

â??I'm not really sure as far as second hand smoke, which is the concern normally,â?? said Rainert Reichert of Traverse City. â??If it's not a health issue, everyone has freedom to do what they want.â??

â??I'd rather leave that up to voters and see how that generates through,â?? said Nancy Ross of Traverse City.

Commissioners are looking for any and all feedback on the issue.

â??You look at this item on an agenda and it seems so simple, yet when you dig into it and open up the layers, you find out there's so much to every decision that's made,â?? said Kroupa.

The County Parks and Recreation Commission will likely vote on the subject at its meeting Thursday, May 15. It will take place at the Governmental Center at 6 p.m..

The public is encouraged to attend.