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ONALASKA — The Onalaska Common Council has had a change of heart on e-cigarettes.

Last month, the council voted 4-2 to reject an ordinance change that would have prohibited use of e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is banned, including bars.

On Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to ban e-cigarettes from public confined spaces after getting additional input at a committee meeting last week from health-care professionals and anti-smoking activists.

Brenda Rooney of Onalaska, an epidemiologist at Gundersen Health System, testified at last week’s committee meeting and reiterated her opposition to e-cigarettes at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The position taken by Rooney, Dr. Todd Mahr and others who argued for the ban was that e-cigarettes are unregulated and the vapor emitted from e-cigarettes contains harmful chemicals, including known carcinogens and could trigger asthma attacks in bystanders.

In a letter to the council, Mahr said it is “factually incorrect” to assume that e-cigarette vapor is harmless, and Rooney agreed.

“We just don’t know the safety of e-cigarettes, so why would we err on the side of allowing it?” Rooney asked council members Tuesday.

Council member Erik Sjolander, who sits on the Judiciary Committee that considered the ordinance change, originally opposed the e-cigarette ban. After Tuesday’s meeting, he said he’d done more research that swayed his opinion.

“There are obvious allergy concerns,” he said.

In addition, Sjolander said he was walking out of a restaurant last Friday and encountered a cloud of e-cigarette vapor that smelled just like a cigar.

Another problem with e-cigarettes, Sjolander noted, is the devices can be used to consume illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine or THC, the active chemical in marijuana.

“You never know what’s going to be in them,” Sjolander said.

The council voted unanimously for the e-cigarette ban ordinance, even council member Jack Pogreba, who strongly opposed the ordinance and voted against it at last week’s committee meeting.

The council also voted unanimously for another ordinance that adopts the state law that prohibits purchase or possession of e-cigarettes by minors.

Chickens

While Pogreba has spoken out at council meetings for the rights of e-cigarette users, he was not so keen on giving city residents the right to keep chickens.

Council members discussed the possibility of allowing city residents to keep chickens. La Crosse is among a growing number of cities that allows a limited number of chickens to be kept within city limits, and there have been some residents pushing to have Onalaska follow suit.

Cali Endris and Samantha Kabat both spoke at the council meeting in favor of allowing chickens, arguing that humanely treated, home-raised chickens produce healthier eggs and meat, and that chickens eat bugs and aerate the soil.

Endris suggested that it would make sense to put a limit of three to five chickens per household and not allow roosters, which can be noisy. She said she didn’t think it would be right to require people who want to keep chickens to get the permission of their neighbors.

After all, she said, people now can keep pit bulls and pythons without getting the OK from neighbors.

Council member Harvey Bertrand said he didn’t think the city should spend time working on a chicken ordinance when there are other higher priorities, but other council members, including Bob Muth, disagreed.

“I don’t think it’s out of line to give them a chance and take a look at it,” Muth said.

Pogreba acknowledged that chickens are quieter than dogs. But, he said, “I’m reluctant to agree to have chickens in neighborhoods,” noting he is allergic to chickens.

Council members did not vote on the chicken question, but the matter is likely to come before the council again, probably after discussion in August by the Plan Commission.

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La Crosse Tribune entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

(5) comments

In the woods

I agree with you Honest Abe. This is a sad day. Ecigs are saving lives and the smoker haters just take the attitude of "quit or die".
I smoked for 34 years and quit 5 years ago with my Ecig. Nothing else works to help quit, none of the pharmaceuticals have near the quit rate of ecigs users.
Most Ecig users I run across are older people, like myself, who smoked for many, many years and had given up any hope of quitting until they found ecigs.
Go to casaa.org and get the facts! Not the garbage the money trail is feeding you.

HonestAbe

Gundersen Lutheran has me down as a full-time daily smoker, even though .... I don't use a lighter and I do not ingest carcinogens or tar. I use a vape device to basically make steam out of the fluid that is inhaled. That keeps me away from cigarettes. EVERY ingredient, are ingredients we use daily in other foods (other than nic). Propylene Glycol, used all over. Vegetable Glycerin, used all over. Flavorings, used all over, see the cake isle. Please smart doctor that said this is bad .... tell me of those USP (food grade) ingredients ...... WHICH CONTAINS TOXINS?

I'm a year into vaping, and can breathe better than I ever did over decades of smoking tobacco.

I could do this all night, but I won't. Bottom line, you listened to one side, and that side had paid endorsements in their wallet. Don't forget, doctors also endorsed cigarettes back in the day, so you really have to wonder where their morals&ethics meet their level of income. (and desire for more more) sickening!

HonestAbe

I've heard people having been pulled over for using their vape device. I could roll a joint to look like a cigarette, do you pull everyone over while smoking cigs because "well, some people can be hiding drugs". BS

There are herbal vape devices, learn them if you are in law enforcement so you don't get sued.

It's like aliens are landing, and we start shooting before we even know if they're friendly or not. Legislation of dolts.

HonestAbe

In addition, Sjolander said he was walking out of a restaurant last Friday and encountered a cloud of e-cigarette vapor that smelled just like a cigar. So, the person liked cigar flavor, light years better than actually smoking. The doctors have to back the hospitals stance, what did the doctors from Mayo say? (eh-hem paid endorsements by GL) Big pharma and the doctors want to demonize these devices, because, we're suppose to just chew gum or slap a patch on to quit smoking. It's business. Comes down to making dollars .... and putting sense aside.

HonestAbe

LIE! "the vapor emitted from e-cigarettes contains harmful chemicals, including known carcinogens" (there are NO carcinogens, she is paid off and should not be trusted)

All of you that had a vote, and approved this ban, now not only have something new to enforce, but ... please explain to me in detail what you based your decisions on?

The ONLY thing KNOWN at this point for anyone, is that legislators regulate on fear (used to be called a witch hunt). There are no valid studies either way ... and I had a doctor say, they KNOW it's better than smoking. Shouldn't that be a great thing? WalMart lets people vape away, so now I can't in Onalaska WalMart, on private property?!? Fear based legislation.

'We don't know anything about this, so called some paid antis to justify banning it' .... is what I really see here.SOMEONES HAVING FUN, REGULATE IT BAN IT QUICK!!!! (even though, if you were fair to hear both sides openly, you may have an educated outlook on the issue,and voted right!

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