Clarinda is scrutinizing the expansion of its ban of smoking, and the use of other tobacco products, in public places to include vaping products.
Page County Public Health Department Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Brandy Powers met with the Clarinda City Council Wednesday, Jan. 22, to discuss adding vaping to the ordinance the city currently has in place. That ordinance prohibits the use of all tobacco products at city facilities like the Clarinda Cemetery, Clarinda City Hall, Lied Center, Lied Public Library, Clarinda Municipal Stadium and city parks.
“Supporting nicotine and vaping-free policies would send a message to members of the community, especially youth, that no form of nicotine or vaping is healthy or acceptable,” Powers said.
Recently the city of Garner, which has a population of approximately 3,000 people, passed an ordinance addressing vaping specifically. However, Powers said Clarinda may be just as effective in regulating vaping by making some small changes to the current city ordinance.
“I think, with the current one we have, just changing a few words in it would be feasible to make it nicotine free,” Powers said.
Powers said she could work with Clarinda City Manager Gary McClarnon on making the necessary wording changes to the ordinance. Then, if the council approves the change, Powers said her department could provide free signage for the city to post notifying the public of the new regulations.
The city council instructed McClarnon to work with Powers on updating its ordinance to include nicotine and vaping-free provisions. Passage of the revised ordinance would require three public readings where local citizens could comment on the proposed changes.
Based on reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Powers said as of Jan. 14 there had been 2,668 cases of electronic cigarette or vaping associated lung injuries have nationwide with such injuries occurring in all 50 states. There have also been 60 deaths occurring in 27 states.
In Iowa, as of Jan. 21, there had been 56 cases of lung injuries reported. Although there had been no deaths in the state, Powers said the potential exists.
An Iowa Youth Survey completed in 2018 in Page County also showed that 25 percent of high school students and 6 percent of middle school students had used an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days. In comparison, Powers said the survey found only 1 percent of high school students had smoked a cigarette in the last 30 days and 2 percent had used chewing tobacco.
“So, we are seeing a huge increase in electronic cigarette use and a huge decrease in traditional tobacco use,” Powers said.
The problem is further compounded by the fact vaping devices and electronic cigarettes are being made to resemble many everyday items. This makes it easier for students, or adults, to hide their use.
Besides delivering nicotine to the user, vaping devices can also be used with illicit substances like THC, which is a chemical found in marijuana. Powers said 43 of the 56 lung injuries in Iowa were associated with THC.
“When you actually vape THC, it is completely different than when you smoke a joint. It affects you completely differently. You don’t feel it right away, so they continue to take more and more in, and it doesn’t smell like the normal marijuana smell. So somebody, whether it be a city employee or whether it be just an individual, could be using it and nobody would ever know. It will more smell like all of the other nicotine products that are a sweet substance because there are over 7,500 flavors on the market right now,” Powers said.
Iowa passed a Smokefree Air Act in 2008 that prohibits smoking in some public areas and enclosed workplaces like restaurants and bars. The act also covers some outdoor locations like sports arenas and the grounds of public buildings.
The Smokefree Air Act does not cover the use of vaping products. However, Powers said the Iowa Department of Public Health has been working to change that.
Those efforts took a step forward Tuesday, Jan. 21, when a three-member subcommittee of the Iowa Senate voted unanimously to approve a ban on vaping in public places. The bill will next be approved by a full Senate committee, then the Senate as a whole before moving over to the Iowa House of Representatives.
A Senate subcommittee also voted unanimously to increase the legal age for smoking and vaping to 21 to comply with federal law. That proposal would have to follow the same path through the legislature.