SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. Monday night, Sedgwick County became what it believes is the first county in Kansas to have a policy allowing people to smoke e-cigarettes or take part in vaping inside public buildings.
It took almost an hour of debating and a split decision before Sedgwick County decided that the 'No Smoking' signs don't apply to e-cigarettes.
"With literally millions of people dying over a 10-year period of cigarettes, there's not been a single person who's died of using e-cigarettes in that group that we can find," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell, one of three who voted in favor of allowing vaping inside public buildings.
County employee Rebecca Davis disagrees with the commission's decision.
"I think it endangers my health," she said. "I have both an autoimmune disease and migraines, and both of those are known to be triggered by exposure to secondhand smoke and/or vapor."
Do e-cigarettes cause more harm than good? That was the question at Monday night's county commission meeting, as much as whether the county should allow vaping inside public buildings.
Some county employees felt the county commission moved too fast with bringing the proposal to a vote.
"They should have sought input from all the county employees it would have affected," Davis said.
But Commissioner Howell, who has been behind the proposal, says he's been working on it for more than a year and brought it forward because employees came to him, wanting to use e-cigarettes at work.
The policy approved Monday night allows the use of e-cigarettes in county buildings unless a specific department can prove their use is harmful to the business done there.
Howell says allowing vaping is good public policy for Sedgwick County.
"There's a lot of bias," he said. "The doctors are biased. The pharmaceutical companies are biased. The tobacco companies are biased... I'm not biased. I'm looking at the data as base I can find it and my opinion is, these actually are saving lives more than they are hurting lives."
Commissioner Karl Peterjohn voted for the policy, but believes it should be revisited in a few years to see how it's working.
Commissioner Richard Ranzau also voted in support of allowing vaping inside public buildings. Commissioners Dave Unruh and Tim Norton voted against the policy.
Commissioners say only a handful of Kansas communities have a police on e-cigarettes at all. And they believe Sedgwick County is the first to have a policy allowing their use.
Some opponents of the policy believe it will open up the county to lawsuits from county employees. The policy should go into effect some time in the next week or two, once the necessary paperwork is handled.