Electronic cigarettes – battery-operated devices that deliver a hit of nicotine with each puff – would be banned in public places under regulations proposed by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
A separate proposed regulation would give the health department greater powers in enforcing anti-smoking laws in the county.
The proposals are posted on the Health Department website today and will be the subject of a public meeting May 16; a Board of Health study session May 18; and consideration of adoption by the board on June 1.
Health Department chief Dr. Anthony Chen told me the regulations are intended to further protect the public from the harmful effects of nicotine and other chemicals associated with the use of e-cigarettes or tobacco.
But it appears the Board of Health already is somewhat split on the issue. Chairman Dick Muri and vice-chairman Stan Flemming, both Pierce County Council members, told me Tuesday they believe the proposed e-cigarette regulations go too far.
They’re not opposed to banning their sale to minors, but they don’t believe there’s enough science on their potential harm to back up regulations preventing people from using them in public.’
In fact, Muri and Flemming said, they could be a good alternative for smokers searching for a way to kick the tobacco habit.
E-cigarette seller Kim Thompson, owner of The Vaporium in Lakewood, calls the proposed regulation “unfair and unjust.”
The King County Health Department enacted stiff regulations on e-cigarettes effective Jan. 15.
Here’s copy of the Health Department’s news release on the proposed regulations:
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Proposes New Regulations Related to Tobacco Prevention and Control
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is tasked with safeguarding and enhancing the health of the communities of Pierce County. As part of its mission, the Health Department tackles emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States and is responsible for one in every five deaths annually.
In Pierce County, 17% of adults smoke, representing more than 100,000 of our family members, neighbors, co-workers and friends.
Even for individuals who don’t smoke, secondhand smoke poses a serious health risk. In adults, secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer
For children, secondhand smoke can increase symptoms of asthma, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome and a number of other health conditions.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has brought forth two proposed regulations that relate to the Health Department’s ongoing work to protect the people of Pierce County from the risks associated with tobacco use.
The Board of Health may vote on these regulations at the June 1, 2011 Board of Health meeting and the Health Department is interested in receiving feedback from the community prior to that date.
The two proposed regulations are:
• Environmental Health Code, Chapter 8: Smoking in Public Places.
This local regulation provides greater clarity and interpretation of RCW 70.160, Washington State’s Smoking in Public Places law, allows for local enforcement including fees and fines and aids local businesses that wish to comply with the State law. Adopting a local regulation facilitates compliance of the state code.
Environmental Health Code, Chapter 9: Restrictions on Sale, Use and Availability of Electronic Smoking Devices and Unregulated Nicotine Delivery Products.
The proposed regulation prohibits smoking and the purchase of e-cigarettes and other unregulated nicotine delivery products by youth under age 18, disallows e-cigarettes to be used in public places and anywhere that regular cigarettes are prohibited and prohibits free or heavily discounted e-cigarettes.
Currently, e-cigarettes are unregulated in the United States. They contain varying levels of nicotine and other known carcinogens and toxic chemicals. The FDA recently announced that it intends to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product and not an approved cessation aid.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will host a public meeting to preview and receive public feedback regarding the two regulations. The meeting will include a brief presentation of the proposed regulations, a question and answer period and an opportunity for attendees to provide brief comment.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Auditorium
3629 South D Street
Tacoma, WA 98418
To provide written feedback on the proposed regulations, please fill out the public input form which can be found here.