FORSYTH COUNTY — The Forsyth County commission is considering an ordinance that would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in county buildings and parks and recreation facilities except in designated areas.
There is no current policy regarding the use of e-cigarettes in these facilities.
Pete Amos, who chairs the commission, said the ordinance would not ban e-cigarettes but would rather restrict their use to specific areas.
The first of two public hearings on the ordinance was held at the commission’s meeting June 5. The second is set for July 3.
Speakers shared their own experiences using e-cigarettes and expressed concern about regulating them like traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products. No one at the hearing spoke in favor of the ordinance.
Many of those who addressed the commission touted e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smoking and said choosing to “vape” with e-cigarettes had helped them quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
Steven Bryant said he began smoking at age 16 and continued for two years before switching to e-cigarettes. Now 19, he is an active member of the vaping community, having started the North Atlanta Vape Squad Facebook group, which has more 500 members.
“Every day I witness proof of the fact that cigarette smokers physically and mentally feel better after making the switch to this reduced-risk alternative,” Bryant said.
Ian Spencer also talked about the health benefits of using e-cigarettes.
“I can breathe now, I can run around with my children … my life has improved so drastically and I feel like I’m in a healthy, full body,” Spencer said.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said studies have produced conflicting results about whether the use of e-cigarettes actually helps smokers quit the habit. However, there are fewer harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes, he said.
“They are a source of secondhand exposure to nicotine, but not to combustion toxicants,” Jarrard said.
Jeff Hardy, who owns Rock N Roll Vapor at 312 Dahlonega St. in Cumming, said his main concern with the ordinance is that e-cigarette users may be exposed to secondhand smoke from traditional cigarettes if they were required to vape in smoking areas.
Smoking areas tend to have a “nasty smell and ashes all over the place,” he said, adding those are often what e-cigarette users are trying to avoid.
Commissioners discussed whether to allow the use of e-cigarettes in the parking lots of county buildings and parks, adding there will another hearing on the matter next month.