GREENFIELD — The debate over smoking electronic cigarettes in public places is expected to intensify next week.
Stephanie Rogers, owner of the Vapor Lock store in Greenfield, plans to attend a meeting of the Hancock County Health Board Tuesday with roughly 400 petition signatures and plenty of support.
And while several elected county officials say the decision to ban e-cigarettes in public places should be reconsidered, it’s hard to tell whether a change will come.
Battery-operated electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine to the lungs but doesn’t use tobacco that has to be burned to release the substance. First developed in 2003 in China, e-cigarettes were introduced in the United States in 2006, and federal officials have been debating how to regulate them ever since.
The debate hit home in February. Hancock County health officer Dr. Sandra Aspy told county commissioners she believes the county’s no-smoking ordinance includes e-cigarettes, and therefore the devices should be banned in public buildings, restaurants, retail stores and more.
Commissioners agreed, following a trend in an increasing number of places to ban the devices.
But since then, a growing number of local residents passionate about the product are standing up in protest.
“Why don’t you let each business make their own decision on what they want to do?” Rogers said, pointing out that many use e-cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking.
Rogers immediately took the issue to Facebook and has been receiving support over the past five weeks. In business two years, Vapor Lock recently moved into a new storefront quadruple the size of its previous location because of the growing demand for the product.
But Rogers says her fight isn’t about her business. It’s about the customers, many of whom say electronic cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking.
“You’re telling hundreds of people who are proud of themselves that they’re not a smoker anymore, that they’re a smoker,” she said.