Archived Story

County allows use of e-cigarettes

Published 5:13pm Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Smoke ’em if you’ve got them — e-cigarettes that is.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, during its meeting Monday, decided to modify the ban on the use of tobacco at county buildings and in county vehicles. Commissioner Gary Brinn broached the subject, saying he wanted to allow the use of e-cigarettes in county vehicles and within 50 feet of entrances to county buildings, but not inside those buildings.

During the summer, the commissioners approved an ordinance that prohibits smoking, the use of other tobacco products and e-cigarettes in county buildings, county vehicles and within 50 feet of all entrances to county buildings. The commissioners made the ban effective Oct. 1 so county employees and the public would have time adjust to the prohibitions.

Anyone violating the ordinance faces up to a $50 fine. Law-enforcement officers will enforce the ordinance. County employees who violate the policy shall be subject to disciplinary actions consistent with the county’s human-resources policies.

All other rules related to tobacco use in county vehicles and county buildings remain in place.

Brinn said many people, including county employees, use e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking regular cigarettes. Brinn said if people need to use e-cigarettes as a crutch in their effort to stop smoking, he did not want to take that option away from them.

Brinn said the ban on all tobacco products and e-cigarettes was the result of the Beaufort County Board of Health writing the rules.

“They wrote in a tobacco-free area, including e-cigarettes, and that’s not what we voted on,” Brinn said. “We voted on a nonsmoking area only. We didn’t say anything doing away with tobacco entirely. If you want to dip and chew, that’s up to you. We voted on a no-smoking area. That’s what I’d like to see in that ordinance.”

Chairman Jerry Langley said the wording of the tobacco-use rules was in the motion the board approved earlier this year. Board members also discussed whether a public hearing, which was not held, was required before the board could enact such rules. Eventually, County Attorney Billy Mayo determined a public hearing was not required.

The rules, as amended, do not allow smoking and the use of tobacco products in any building owned, leased or occupied by the county, in any vehicle owned, leased or controlled by the county and within 50 feet of all County buildings.

Each of the seven municipalities in the county — Aurora, Bath, Belhaven, Chocowinity, Pantego, Washington and Washington Park — may adopt a similar ban by approving a similar ordinance.

Earlier this year, county officials said they expect the measure to save money over the long-term by reducing health-care costs for county employees.

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