A majority of councilors voted Thursday not to add electronic cigarettes to the list of items not allowed in public places.
The amendment to the Clean Air Ordinance failed after five councilors voted against it. Councilors Juan Oropesa and Steve Henderson voted in favor. Councilors Jason Perry and Elena Velasquez were absent from the meeting.
Several members of the public spoke against adding electronic smoking devices to the list of banned items to the smoking policy.
Former Councilor Jimmy Craig said he was in opposition to the change.
“I’m generally one that does not believe in over-intrusive government,” Craig said. “You have to have a real reason to intrude in personal likes and dislikes.”
Craig said it appeared to him that there was no conclusive scientific evidence in regards to the electronic devices. E-cigarettes had helped him as a lawyer in court and it had been good to him, he said.
“It’s actually been very beneficial to me. I was a smoker and quit,” Craig said. “Just because it’s offensive to someone, I don’t think we need to do something about it. I would urge the council to leave it alone.”
Craig did feel the need to point out, as a side note, that when he was researching the Clean Air Ordinance, its language was only specific about tobacco products in public places. It did not mention the use of medical marijuana.
“The way I read the ordinance, the smoking of cannabis is not prohibited in public areas,” Craig said.
Another concerned citizen, Randy Smith, had also quit smoking using the devices. He now owns the kiosk that sells electronic smoking devices and products at the Roswell Mall.
“I have a pretty good background knowledge of electronic cigarettes,” Smith said. “They are actually a very positive thing for this community and society overall, that most people don’t realize. The reason I got into electronic cigarettes is because it saved my life and my family’s life.”
The products that his company manufactures can be customized to gradually wean users off nicotine, he said.
“The other thing, the FDA is all over this. Give the FDA a chance to finish their testing, finish their results,” Smith said. “Please think about the lives e-cigarettes are saving.”
Henderson said the intention of the amended ordinance was not to deny people smoking the devices, but just to deny them the opportunity to “smoke in your face at a restaurant.”
“We’re denying them to smoke in public places, just like denying them to smoke tobacco in public places,” Henderson said. “I think we have everything to lose and nothing to gain. People who want to use (them) can still do so. All I would say is when I had the experience of that vapor being blow in my face, I found it very objectionable.”
Other councilors chose not to comment on the issue.
In other action, the American Legion Post 28 was granted a club liquor license.
An overwhelming number of veterans and community members attended the hearing to offer support for the veterans’ organization.
The license will allow the American Legion to sell liquor to its club members and invited guests.
After hearing from 10 community leaders, club officials and supporters of the organization and with a majority of meeting attendees standing up at one point to show their support, the only councilor to vote in opposition to the license was Councilor Savino Sanchez.
Club officials explained that a portion of the money raised through alcohol funds will be used to pay for ongoing community programs that benefit youth. A club liquor license requires that a certain percentage of sales be returned to the community.
“To the veterans who have served our country so well and at such cost, I‘m going to challenge you to continue to serve in a dignified manner,” said Mayor Dennis Kintigh. “Set the standard. Be the ones who show others. Be the good citizens I know you are.”