Tahlequah Daily Press

November 8, 2013

New ordinance is unnecessary


TAHLEQUAH — Editor, Daily Press:

I want to thank Mayor [Jason] Nichols for how well he is handling this storm of public discussion surrounding the proposed city ordinance to ban the use of e-cigarettes in city buildings and properties such as the parks. I know it must be trying, and I appreciate the grace he has shown, as well the lengths to which he has gone to have discussions with the public, much of which has taken place online.

I’m probably going to be doing searches of the medical literature and working to put together scientific information on the actual risks associated with vaping products to share with the councilors and the mayor. I will likely also touch on how interest groups continue to use government agencies, financial incentives and well-intended people to get policies in place that are often for purposes other than what they are sold to activists.

In this case, I suspect the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is using groups like the Cherokee County Tobacco Coalition to encourage these city ordinances because those behind the scenes know the proposed regulations couldn’t make it through the state Legislature. Why try there when it can be piece-mealed through municipalities to effectuate their goals without as much public scrutiny?

The financial incentives given to these groups (and to municipalities) though grants can be very attractive. With this case, there is a $42,000 grant at stake for what I myself generally consider a good cause. I want to be clear the $42,000 grant on the line this time is not supposed to be going to the city.

At the city council meeting Monday night, one man raised the issue of balancing public health concerns with individual liberties. He encouraged the council, if in doubt and without compelling evidence, to rule on the side of caution. In spite of possible financial or other incentives, the council should resist limiting the public’s freedom without  reason.

It was made very clear, even admitted by the representatives of the Cherokee County Tobacco Coalition proposing the ordinance, that there was no compelling evidence on health risks associated with second-hand vapors. In fact, all the health risks I heard mentioned were a matter of conflating the risks associated with tobacco smoking with the use of the electronic smoking devices, which is not the same at all. That would be analogous to saying taking doses of pure caffeine have the same detrimental effects as drinking a can [of soda].

I urge the city council not to approve a ban without appropriate reasons.

Dr. Shannon Grimes, chairman

Cherokee County Republican Party