E-cigarettes would be added to the list of tobacco-related products that can’t be used in or around La Crosse County buildings under a proposal introduced to the county board Thursday.

The ordinance change brought before county supervisors for first reading Thursday would prohibit all types of smoking — including “vaping” — as well as smokeless tobacco from all county buildings, vehicles, park shelters and within 20 feet of doorways on county property.

This amendment also would forbid county employees from smoking in their personal vehicles when transporting someone on county business, such as a social worker taking a child home.

“It’s more a focus on the client,” county Supervisor Monica Kruse explained before the meeting.

The original ordinance designating the La Crosse County campus and other sites as smoke-free workplaces was adopted before the electronic cigarettes emerged as an alternative, Kruse said.

The e-cigarette devices vaporize a liquid, often laced with nicotine, so it can be inhaled like a traditional cigarette or cigar but without the smoke. County Supervisor Keyla Jones-Rosa questioned why the e-cigarettes were being lumped in with the other prohibited products, since she had heard “vaping” is not as toxic.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially harmful, Kruse said, adding that early studies have indicated vaping still could have some health risks.

County Corporation Counsel Dave Lange pointed out the changes are being made under standards of employee conduct, so they primarily apply to county staff.

The ordinance also does not intend to police for public tobacco or e-cigarette use in the outdoor areas of county parks, Kruse said.

“That,” she said, “would be very difficult to control.”

The board will not vote on the measure until Oct. 15.

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