OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order on Monday that bans the use of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices on state property, saying the potential long-term health effects of the products are unknown.
The order applies to all land and property owned or leased by the state, including state vehicles, effective Jan. 1. The only exception is for residents of state residential facilities for veterans.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution and create a water vapor that users inhale.
“E-cigarettes release vapor that contains chemicals that can impact employees and visitors to state property,” Fallin said in a statement. “Additionally, many electronic cigarettes look like traditional cigarettes and emit a vapor that looks like smoke. This creates confusion for employees and visitors and presents enforcement challenges for state agencies.”
Fallin is an anti-smoking advocate who issued a similar ban of tobacco products on state property two years ago. Her order will be distributed to the chief executives of individual state agencies, which are responsible for enforcing the prohibition on e-cigarettes.
But Oklahoma Vapors Advocacy League President and Chairman Sean Gore called Fallin’s order an “abuse of power.”
“The Legislature is actively working on this issue, and she’s sidestepping lawmakers who are working hard to develop meaningful regulation of these products,” said Gore, who owns vapor shops in Guthrie and Edmond. “I have a binder full of studies … with conclusions that there are no health risks to bystanders.”
With more people turning to smoke-free, electronic cigarettes to help quit smoking, the vapor industry is blossoming, with mom-and-pop operations popping up across the state. A bill introduced last session to impose age restrictions on the purchase of electronic cigarettes led to a political fight over how they would be defined in the law and taxed by the state.
Meanwhile, courts have held that e-cigarettes can be regulated as tobacco products, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it plans to develop a proposed rule that could bring the products under its regulatory authority.
New York’s City Council voted Thursday to ban the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, offices, and indoor public spaces. Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the measure, which would take effect four months later.