Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular over the past couple of years as cities and towns restrict smoking in public. But the health effects of the devices are not well documented yet, especially with regard to the impact of secondhand smoke.

For that reason, we commend Greenwood for becoming the first local community to add e-cigarettes to its smoking ban; and we encourage other local communities to follow suit.

Greenwood included electronic cigarettes or vaping in the current smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in certain public places, including restaurants, building entrances and city property, such as parks, but not bars. The ban also was extended to include outdoor seating areas at restaurants.

City council members gave final approval to the change in the ban Monday. The change will impact summer events, such as concerts in the parks and the Freedom Festival. The ban should go into effect by next week, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

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Supporters of the change said it was needed to protect others from exposure to any chemicals in the vapor people exhale, and so that teens and children were not seeing people using e-cigarettes.

Opponents said e-cigarettes are often used by smokers trying to quit, and that banning them from being used in public will not stop teens from trying to use them.

Jane Blessing, executive director of Partnership for a Healthier Johnson, said the top concerns with e-cigarettes are their use by children and teens and the uncertainty of the danger in the vapor released into the air. E-cigarettes have fewer regulations than cigarettes, and the number of youths using them is growing. So by banning them in public places, that is taking away the concern of modeling that behavior for children, she said.

State lawmakers considered the same ban in the most recent legislative session, but it didn’t get passed. Instead it was assigned to a summer study committee.

During the session, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wrote a letter to e-cigarette marketing and advertising company Altria Group Inc. emphasizing his concern that e-cigarettes are following in the footsteps of traditional cigarettes. He said nearly 2 million middle and high school students had tried the product.

The Indiana General Assembly’s Interim Committee on Public Policy will focus on whether to expand the state’s smoking ban, which currently exempts bars, casinos and private clubs. The committee also will consider e-cigarettes, how they affect smokers’ health and whether they should be included as part of the smoking ban.

It would be easy to wait until the General Assembly acts on the summer study committee’s findings, but there’s no guarantee that panel will recommend anything. The best course is for communities to follow Greenwood’s lead and add e-cigarettes to the no-smoking list in their ordinances.

At issue

Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular as restrictions on public smoking get stricter.

Our point

Governments should follow Greenwood’s lead and add e-cigarettes to the no-smoking list in their ordinances.