Yakima mulls e-cigarette ban in public places

YAKIMA, Wash. -- When's the last time you saw someone smoking a cigarette in a restaurant, store or hospital? Well, the statewide ban on tobacco in public could be expanded in Yakima to include e-cigarettes. A growing fad among smokers nationwide.Brandon Matthews sells e-cigarettes at his smoke shop on First Street."I think personally that banning cigarettes is taking people's freedoms and liberties away."An e-cigarette uses a built-in battery and heating element to vaporize a liquid solution usually containing nicotine and flavorings. The possible risks and benefits are still unknown.E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA. And, their contents vary from brand to brand. Some claim cigarette smokers are better off using e-cigarettes. But, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and might be addictive."If the FDA hasn't approved of these, we don't know what second-hand...what people around us are receiving from these, and I don't want my kids or myself to be exposed to something that may not be safe for me," said one Yakima neighbor.Right now, Yakima's legal department is drafting an ordinance on directions from the Public Safety Committee. Members expressed concern about the chemicals e-cigarettes could release into the air. Minors would also be banned from buying them.Matthews insists e-cigarette vapor isn't as bad as cigarette smoke."It's not stinking around a whole room or stinking your clothes up or stinking your hands up to where's it's going to bother anyone at all."David Glicka lives in Yakima. He agrees with Matthews. "They shouldn't be banned from public places. They should be embraced, I think."That outcome now up in the air like the vapor e-cigarettes deliver.The ordinance would need initial approval from the Public Safety Committee. If it clears there, City Council would have the final say.