County allows use of e-cigarettes

Published 5:13 pm 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.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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