The Sedgwick County Commission voted Wednesday to once again restrict the use of electronic cigarettes in county buildings.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to reverse an earlier policy that allowed county employees to vape at work. Now, e-cigarettes will be treated the same as regular cigarettes: No smoking indoors, or within 25 feet of a building entrance.
After a sometimes emotional debate, commissioners Jim Howell and Richard Ranzau opposed the resolution. Both said they have seen the harmful effects of smoking first-hand: Howell's father was a lifelong smoker with breathing issues; Ranzau's mother died at 56 of lung cancer.
"It's interesting that the two commissioners that have been most affected by smoking are going to oppose this today," Ranzau said. "I don't think that's a coincidence. Because it's very, very real."
Howell said he doesn't support vaping, but that it's a better alternative that can help people quit smoking.
“There is a difference between someone who smokes cigarettes, who’s literally killing themselves, and someone who chooses a bad habit called vaping, but it’s not even close to cigarette smoking," he said. "And I think our policy should reflect that truth.”
Commissioner Dave Unruh said the new policy doesn’t stop anyone from vaping if they want to.
“If you want to do either one that’s fine, you just can’t do it inside the building; just go back to our previous policy," he said.
The commission had voted in 2016 to allow county employees to use e-cigarettes inside county buildings. At the time, Unruh and then-Commissioner Tim Norton voted against the measure.