Several Green Country cities are banning e-cigarettes on public property. City officials say it's for health reasons, but others say it's because they're being handed cash incentives.
Cities can get anywhere from $4,000 to $275,000 for being certified as a, "healthy," city by the state. That certification now includes banning e-cigs. Some say that money is why both Tahlequah and Skiatook passed these bans.
The Healthy Communities Incentive Grants require cities to ban e-cigarettes on city property. Cities that do so can be awarded up to $275,000 by Oklahoma's Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
But Skiatook City Manager Dan Yancey said that's not why their city made the ban.
"It's health reasons. It just makes sense because there's too many unknowns," Yancey said.
He said Governor Mary Fallin's e-cig ban on state property reinforced their decision.
"In fact, we had the initiative going before we realized the state was on the same track," said Yancey.
He said city councilors considered the grant money when passing the ban.
"It was unanimous decision. It was easy for them. It made sense for them," Yancey said.
But it doesn't make sense to Maygin Brewer at Skiatook's only e-cig store.
"Vaping does not have the secondhand smoke like smoking does, so I don't see where the big deal is about it, but I also know they're getting grant money for it," Brewer said.
The city of Tahlequah passed the same ban Monday. Tahlequah is certified healthy, and received $8,000 from the grant *before it included the new e-cig criteria.
Mayor Jason Nichols said the city's e-cig ban could mean even more grant money for Tahlequah. Nichols released a statement saying:
"I don't believe [money] was the motivation. It was mostly a matter of public health. Councilors tried to vote based on policy merits, not money."
The amount of grant money awarded is based on a city's population. Ada and Shawnee are two other Oklahoma cities that have banned e-cigs on city property.