The Madison County Board of Health voted 8-1 Wednesday night to include electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, in its indoor-smoking restrictions.
The restrictions have been in effect since 2007. The amended regulation will take effect in 60 days.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge, creating vapor that the smoker inhales. A tiny light on the tip glows like the end of a cigarette.
After the user inhales, the residual vapor is exhaled. Companies market e-cigarettes as a smoking-cessation aid and as a way around smoke-free policies. In 2009, the federal Food and Drug Administration warned of toxic ingredients in e-cigarettes.
Proponents say the available evidence shows that adult smokers significantly reduce their health risks by switching to e-cigarettes.
"There is no evidence e-cigarettes have ever harmed anyone," Dr. Theresa Whitt, medical director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, wrote in a letter to the Madison board of health members.
Madison County prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces such as restaurants, bars and workplaces. Enforcement of the regulation passed by the board of health began on June 12, 2007.
The growing popularity of e-cigarettes had complicated enforcement because e-cigarettes weren't included in the regulation, said Christie Green, public information officer for the Madison County Health Department. Wednesday's amendment resolves that. The amendment also prohibits smoking in retail tobacco stores, a practice that was exempted under the original regulation.
Madison County joins Bardstown and Glasgow in prohibiting e-cigarettes. The Bullitt County Board of Health passed a similar regulation in late March; it goes into effect Sept. 19.
A campuswide tobacco-free policy that begins July 1 at Saint Catharine College in Washington County also prohibits e-cigarettes.
Lexington's smoke-free ordinance, passed in 2003 and implemented in 2004, does not include e-cigarettes.