Good call, council

Secondhand smoke is dangerous. We know this. It’s a fact. And because of this knowledge, the city has an ordinance prohibiting smoking in certain public spaces, including in parks and in front of businesses. What we’re not certain about are the risks to nonsmokers by e-cigarettes, newer smoking devices in which nicotine is ingested by sucking in aerosol—or vapor—rather than smoke.

The question for the Chico City Council Tuesday evening (July 7) was whether the panel should err on the side of caution and add these new-fangled devices to the existing ordinance regulating the smoking of tobacco.

During the meeting, citizens, including two junior high students, made a convincing argument for revising Chico’s law to include so-called vaping products. They noted, for example, that doing so would prevent confusion about violations of the current law. Moreover, a Butte County Public Health survey of local residents found a majority approve of a ban on e-cigarettes in public places where smoking is already prohibited. Chico would join 131 other California jurisdictions, including Oroville and Paradise, by adding e-cigs to the local law, according to the American Lung Association, they said.

Freshman Councilman Andrew Coolidge tried his best to convince his colleagues at the dais that prohibiting e-cigs was just another nanny law, another blow to freedom. He made a slippery-slope argument; that taking away a right in this case could lead to the further stripping of rights.

But as was pointed out to him, citizens would retain their right to use e-cigs; they just wouldn’t be able to do so in public places that could potentially harm the health of other members of the community. The remaining six council members came to that common-sense conclusion, and we thank them for it.