Policies to align Beaver Dam with Blue Zones move forward, including bar and restaurant vape ban

August 8, 2018

Vaping could be restricted in some Beaver Dam places as policy ideas moved forward Monday night to bring Beaver Dam more in line with the Blue Zones Project.

Blue Zones is a community well being initiative launched in 2017 that is sponsored by Beaver Dam Community Hospital. The stated mission is to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy, and social networks.

The Common Council’s operations committee signed off on several items that will move to the full council for consideration. One of the more significant pieces was a recommended change to the definition of smoking to include electronic nicotine devices, such as a vape or an e-cig.

These kinds of battery-powered devices vaporize a liquid solution that offers nicotine and flavor without burning tobacco.

The full council still needs to vote on the committee’s unanimous recommendation at a later date. If approved, the revisions would restrict such electronic devices from being used in a bar, a restaurant or spaces used to spectate public outdoor events like the bleachers at a sporting event.

They would be prohibited in locations defined as a “public place,” including the common areas of retail buildings, apartment buildings and condos, hallways and waiting rooms. Bars and restaurants would be added as spaces defined as a public place. Electronic products also would be treated the same as lighted products at the entrances of workplaces.

However, existing language that bans smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products inside any enclosed workplace more generally would not change. Wisconsin state law itself bans smoking within indoor workplaces.

Committee member Robert Ballweg said he received an e-mail from council member Ken Anderson, who is not on the operations committee, about how he wanted the committee to know that such devices can be used with liquid cartridges that do not contain nicotine. The committee did not make a distinction in the end.

“If someone’s vaping and it’s coming at me, even if there’s zero percent nicotine or 10 percent, that’s a nuisance to me,” said committee member Therese Henriksen.

Committee member Jane Loizzo said there would be no way to tell the difference.

“If you have 6 percent nicotine, or 3 percent nicotine, or 1.5 percent nicotine or zero percent nicotine, it shouldn’t matter, and it can’t matter because you couldn’t know that,” she said. “As someone who’s going to enforce that rule, you couldn’t know that.”

The issue, being pushed forward as part of Blue Zones, was framed as one of health as the use of electronic nicotine devices has become popular among young people. They are still new to the market, without much data on health effects to reach firm scientific conclusions.

“It is the physical appearance of what you’re promoting to young people, whether there happens to be nicotine in there or not,” said Mayor Becky Glewen. “They see it and think its appropriate.”

The committee also moved forward other items that do not change city code, meaning they will be more flexible if approved by the council. They included a policy to make sure that city vending machines contain healthier drinks and snack items and a master plan for the treescape in Beaver Dam.

Other plans also commit the city to wide-ranging goals of improving ease and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

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