MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 29, 2014

Tahlequah bans e-cigs on city land

Tahlequah city council members passed a city ordinance at a recent meeting to ban the use of electronic cigarettes on city owned or operated property.

“I think the benefit will ultimately prove to be positive,” said Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols.

Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres brought the motion to a vote after Amos Rouell of Tahlequah spoke to the council and local residents.

Rouell said his e-cigarette use has helped avoid hospital visits because of health issues.

“I don’t have to end up in the hospital with bronchitis or pneumonia,” he said.

Rouell wasn’t alone in his advocacy at the meeting. Chris Taylor, a 911 dispatcher in Tahlequah, spoke before the council.

“It’s about money,” Taylor said after the vote. “They weren’t going to hear what anyone was going to say.”

The vote will directly affect Taylor’s work as he uses his e-cigarette while in his office.

“I’ve been smoking for 16 years,” Taylor said. “I switched to these three years ago. I breathe better. I sleep better.”

The Cherokee County Communities of Excellence Tobacco Control Program submitted a new ordinance to the city council after a similar proposal failed in November.

In Muskogee, no ordinances have been formally discussed on the subject of e-cigarettes, but some city leaders would like to see the issue raised.

“I have had two or three major conversations with Mayor (Bob) Coburn, nothing formal,” said Dr. James Baker, chairman of the Muskogee Wellness Initiative.

At a recent certified health awards assembly, Muskogee was recognized with a “merit” certified healthy city rating. Baker made clear his goal to make Muskogee become an “excellent” certified health city.

Certified Healthy Oklahoma is a program of the state health department. Certain criteria must be met to qualify for grant money. One such criteria, is becoming a tobacco-free city.

According to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and the Oklahoma Health Department, e-cigarettes are considered “other tobacco products.” Therefore, they fall under the same category of tobacco-free criteria.

Baker said his primary focus in making Muskogee a certified excellent health city was ensuring Muskogee become a tobacco-free city.

“I think there is an interest in making this happen,” Baker said.

Tahlequah and Muskogee officials are not alone in their quest to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed an executive order in late December banning personal use of e-cigarettes on state property.

Since Nov. 20, residents in Ada have been facing a city ordinance that forbids e-cigarettes from all city-owned or operated indoor and outdoor areas.

Ada City Council member Bryan Morris said Ada residents have adjusted.

“Initially, there was an outrage,” Morris said. “People were very upset, but that’s died down. People have accepted it, and moved on.”

The amendment to Ada’s tobacco ordinance passed by a 3-2 vote.

“It was a close vote,” Morris said. “I voted for the ban because I thought it was best for Ada.”

Reach E.I. Hillin at (918) 684-2926 or ehillin@muskogeephoenix.com.

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