By: Marietta Daily Journal

Electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco could soon be forbidden in Marietta parks, and Mayor Steve Tumlin said the city is also looking at a ban of all tobacco and nicotine use on the city’s sidewalks.

Cobb and Douglas Public Health Deputy Director Lisa Crossman and planning and policy specialist Jazmyn McCloud made the pitch to the city’s Judicial and Legislative Committee on Tuesday.

They said the city already bans combustible tobacco products like cigarettes, pipes and cigars in parks, but this plan would add non-combustible forms of nicotine such as chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapes.

E-cigarettes are small devices that vaporize a liquid containing nicotine and flavoring, which users breathe in. Supporters say they are safer than cigarettes and a good way for smokers to kick the habit, but others say they are not fully tested and the variety of appealing flavors could lead children to become addicted.

“While there’s much information being uncovered around e-cigarettes, we do know that it’s not safe, and it is roping a new generation into participating in e-cigarettes, and potentially a gateway into other drugs,” McCloud said.

Crossman said the amount of nicotine in one Juul pod— Juul is a popular brand of e-cigarette— can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

“A lot of people who use the vapes and the Juuls don’t realize that the amount of nicotine that they’re ingesting is so much more concentrated than even in tobacco products,” she said. “So you are not having all the tobacco combustible issues, but you’re having severe nicotine addiction starting early on.”

Crossman said Cobb and Douglas Public Health would help the city cover costs such as signage announcing the ban and marketing expenses to get the word out. The department has previously assist the city of Kennesaw and SunTrust Park in implementing similar policies.

They also offered to provide model language the city could base its new code on, which got Mayor Tumlin thinking.

“Is there any ordinance people have about smoke on sidewalks? We’ve never gone beyond the parameters, but you walk by buildings, and landlords basically have their smoke rooms on our sidewalks,” he said.

“You could create a larger ordinance that would eliminate second-hand smoke exposure similar to what you described… in all public places owned by the city, and that would cover some of the sidewalks,” McCloud said.

Tumlin said after the meeting he is interested in making that rule part of the code change, and Parks Director Rich Buss said he would like to add language restricting city employees from using smokeless tobacco in city buildings or vehicles.

The Judicial and Legislative Committee voted unanimously to move the plan ahead to the full City Council at its March meeting.

Councilman Andy Morris, the committee’s chair, supported the plan, but asked how the city would enforce it.

“Normally these policies are self-enforcing. Generally, most people, if they see signage, they will not smoke,” Crossman said. “They will not use tobacco products.”

City Manager Bill Bruton said he’s not sure the current ban on combustible nicotine products has ever resulted in a citation and when issues arise, they typically are resolved quickly.

“The experiences I’m aware of are basically concerts on the Square, when we have those, and there are people who are concentrated so close together, we do frequently have people who will inform our staff that someone is smoking …” he said. “Either a staff member or a police officer will advise that individual that this is a smoke-free area, you can’t do that. Most of the time, if not all of the time, they … stop at that time. But if they continue, they could cite them.”