APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - After a heated debate, Appleton's city council voted unanimously to extend its smoking ban to include public vaping.
In a separate vote, the council voted 12-2 to exempt vape shops from the ban. Anywhere else, wherever it is illegal to smoke in Appleton, it will be illegal to use electronic cigarettes as well.
As the popularity of vaping grows, more communities like Appleton are considering restrictions to keep it out of places like restaurants and bars.
The issue brought out a large crowd from both sides Wednesday night.
The standing room only crowd in front of the city council was divided.
"If you think it's a coincidence that kids are the likeliest addicts and that tobacco now tastes like cotton candy, it's because the tobacco companies profit off addiction," Cindy Czarnik-Neimeyer of Appleton said.
"I just don't understand why it's up to the government to tell me what I can do inside my privately owned business," Melissa Adlebush of Appleton said.
Alderwoman Cathy Spears proposed the ban on vaping as a response to health concerns and a need to send a message to teenagers.
"We have a crisis in our nation, in our state, and right here in the Fox River Valley. One out of four teenagers are using e-cigarettes. It's a normal occurrence now," Spears said.
Several vape shop owners also spoke out. Many requested an exemption to any ban.
"Banning vaping inside vape shops would do nothing but harm businesses. Appleton could potentially see another small business close, another empty storefront, in addition to jobs lost," E Vapor of Appleton owner Ken Kempen said.
When the ordinance takes effect, Appleton will become the largest city in northeast Wisconsin to restrict where the use of electronic cigarettes is allowed.
Tuesday night, the neighboring Town of Grand Chute passed an ordinance banning vaping indoors in public places. It's modeled after the state's smoking ban.
"Because of the dangers of it, we had a couple of people come and testify. One was a doctor, then there's other people that are familiar with the vaping. I am not, but it's been said that it's just about as bad as tobacco and it could be even worse," Grand Chute Town Chair Dave Schowalter said.
Schowalter said the ordinance should take effect in a week or two.
Action 2 News also learned Kimberly is in the process of drafting an ordinance. The village administrator told Action 2 News it would ban public indoor vaping whether it involves tobacco or not. The proposed ordinance will be discussed at a meeting either on April 1 or April 8.