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St. Peters could explore banning e-cigarettes in city buildings

St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano has asked if the city should include e-cigarettes in the ban on smoking on city buildings.

Pagano discussed a ban with the city’s Board of Aldermen during a board work session on Jan. 12 but no action was taken because of some lingering questions that he asked city staff to research. Once that information comes back, Pagano may ask the board to amend the city’s health and sanitation code to include e-cigarettes in the city’s existing smoking ban.

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine and other chemicals to users via vapor instead of smoke. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that while e-cigarettes are often cited as a safer alternative to cigarettes and other tobacco products, little is actually known about the health risk of the devices.

Pagano was not citing the use of tobacco – although he said he had doubts about its safety – rather he was more concerned about the instances of e-cigarettes exploding in pockets and purses. During the meeting, he showed a video of a news report, aired earlier this month by KSDK, about a case of e-cigarettes going up in smoke. The reported noted concerns about the devices’ lithium batteries that may contribute to the explosions.

“I really believe that there is an extreme hazard there,” Pagano said.

Alderman Judy Bateman [Ward 2] questioned whether a ban would apply to city employees at work. Pagano said he had not thought about the issue and agreed with Bateman that he did not want employees penalized for possession.

Other aldermen including Alderman Michael Shea [Ward 3] asked if the intent was to protect people from exploding devices or emissions. City Administrator Russ Batzel noted that e-cigarettes are not prohibited because a ban is not stated in the city’s code.

After the city staff researches these questions, the issue will return to the board at a work session scheduled for Jan. 26.

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