E-cigarette users in Grand Island face up to a $500 fine if they use vapor products indoors or in public places under a new ban that went into effect this week.
Some Lincoln city officials share the public health concerns about vaping that spurred the Grand Island City Council to enact the ban.
But whether Lincoln will follow suit remains unclear, according to interviews with several city officials.
“I think it’s important that we take a look at vaping to see what we need to do to make sure that our shared areas are clean and clear,” said Councilman James Michael Bowers, vice president of the County-City Board of Health.
Nationally, Centers for Disease Control officials have urged e-cigarette users to consider not using the devices as a federal investigation continues into an outbreak of lung illnesses related to their use.
Federal investigators have linked six deaths nationally to e-cigarette use in as many states.
E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals, according to the CDC.
Food and Drug Administration officials have expressed mixed feelings toward the products, whose dangers remain unclear due to a lack of data. But evidence suggests e-cigarettes can help steer adults away from smoking tobacco products.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II said Wednesday the Food and Drug Administration would outline a plan in the coming weeks to remove all but tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods from the market, according to The New York Times.
Lincoln City Councilman Bennie Shobe said the idea that vaping is a safer alternative concerns him.
He believes regulating e-cigarettes at the state level would be more effective than spot-zoning that could be done by cities.
In a statement, Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird said her staff is “working closely with city health officials to determine potential policy changes that best protect the public.”
The Nebraska Legislature will hold a hearing Sept. 27 on an interim study looking at the public use of and secondhand exposure to e-cigarette devices and products.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers raised the age to purchase these products from 18 to 19 in hopes of getting them out of the hands of high school students.
Both Shobe and Bowers said they’d heard anecdotal evidence of children in Lincoln middle and high schools using these products.
About 1 in 4 youth surveyed locally said they used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, according to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department’s most recent survey.
The Board of Health discussed what’s happening nationwide and strategies to prevent youth from vaping at its meeting on Tuesday before agreeing to write a letter to the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee supporting statewide regulation of e-cigarettes.