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Tacoma-Pierce County health official wants to ban electronic cigarettes in public places

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on May 4, 2011 at 10:56 am with 36 Comments »
May 4, 2011 3:03 pm

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.

The proposal also would ban the sale of the e-cigarettes to minors.

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.

Review the full regulation.

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.

Review the full regulation.

Public Meeting

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
6:00-7:00 PM

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.

Leave a comment Comments → 36
  1. Ted Ryan says:

    Nanny state hard at work. Seriously, does the Health Department intend to ban all things deemed unhealthy?

    If we don’t protect our liberties, we soon won’t have any.

  2. BlaineCGarver says:

    Unwanted meddling. Better put your collective feet down folks, or every aspect of your life will be controled by the health nazis.

  3. JBrandfas says:

    Instead of noticing me walking along with a cigarette, how about noticing the car that just drove by belching blue and black exhaust. Which is the bigger issue to general health, and how many more of those cars are there than their are smokers? Oh but you cant go after the cars because everyone has one and that would mean upsetting the voters and the big $$ you get from having them on the highways.

  4. dirtydan54 says:

    How about banning those public employees who want to inflict their agendas on everybody in the name of public safety and/or public interest. They need to learn that if we the people ask and demand such action then do what we ask, not act in our behalf or interest.

  5. hotthumbs says:

    God just leave us alone already!

  6. pgroup says:

    Maybe the Trib could lighten up on elected official Washam and pay attention to how obviously mentally disturbed individuals get APPOINTED to public office.

    Who in county government wants to defend this deranged department? McCarthy? The County Council?

    Just crickets. I thought so.

  7. Traver says:

    Electronic cigarettes are the most effective way to quit and are rapidly becoming the most popular. Hundreds of thousands of people have already used them to quit tobacco. Now the powers that be have decided either out of ignorance or some other reason that it is better for those smokers who cannot quit to go on smoking. Electronic cigarettes do not produce smoke or second hand smoke. They don’t cause heart disease, lung cancer or any of the ailments that come with smoking tobacco. So why are they to be treated like smoking tobacco?

    Perhaps they should take the trouble to learn some facts first. Below is a good place to start.

  8. Jacinda says:

    While I think it is a good idea to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, I think it is a very bad idea to ban their use in public places. They don’t produce smoke, there is no smell like there is with smoke and there’s no second hand smoke. There is not a single incidence I’ve heard of where they have been harmful to the health of bystanders.

    In fact, these devices may help save lives by getting smokers away from the 4000+ toxic chemicals which are found in smoke but not in vapor. Why would you want to discourage this?

  9. lovethemountains says:

    All I can say is, Oh, man, leave me alone. BTW I smoke neither cigarettes, cigars or e-cigs.

  10. E-Cig = NO Second Hand Smoke.

    Was that hard to understand?

    There are more carcinogens in your back garden bar-b-que !!!!!!!

  11. Chris Johanson says:

    There is literally no evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful to the USER, let alone bystanders. Studies and tests show no nicotine in the vapor – which is really just droplets of water becoming visible by rapid cooling. (There’s more science to it than that, but that’s the jist!)

    Nothing to hurt bystanders. Nothing to hurt ANYONE. In a free society, a “ban” should be the LAST resort.

    Though I do support a ban to minors, isn’t this already covered by the FDA’s recent decision to regulate them as tobacco products? By the way, they were forced into that decision by a court ruling in which it was ruled that the FDA was unable to provide evidence that they cause any harm!

  12. Greg Hathaway says:

    Well I smoke a Crown7 electric cigarette and its the best thing that has ever happened to me. Not only that but their are studies out that show their is no 2nd hand smoke with these electric cigarettes, so why in the world would anyone ban them???

  13. rothenbj says:

    Smoking, Combustion, Chemical change of lighted material.

    The Health department must, should know this to be the case. There are health risks of igniting ANYTHING. Read tobacco, Bio Fuels, Charcoal, leaves, firewood. All have health risks and all they do is parrot the eugenic preachings of the prohibitionists.

    I would suppose behind this effort is more the effort to protect the profits of the Pharma industry than protecting the general public and this effort needs to stop.

    I do not smoke anymore. I don’t use an E Cig much anymore and when I do it is normally a zero nicotine liquid. I did use the E Cig to break the HABIT of smoking, not the ADDICTION to smoking but it was a deep, deep level of habit having smoked for 43 years and 2-3 packs a day at the end.

    If the Health Department wants to improve community health, they should be promoting something that actually works decently as opposed to BP products that have a success rate of somewhere in the neighborhood of 2% after 20 months.

    It’s not the tobacco, it’s the SMOKE.

  14. kroffty says:

    Next they will ban me lighting a match after a bathroom break!
    I don’t even smoke and this pisses me off !

  15. Stacy Emerson says:

    I obtained my e-gig as a hand-me-down from someone I met through a T-PC Health Department employee. This was back when they cost around $60 or more, so I greatly appreciated the gift. Since then, a convenience store chain started selling full kits for $20, with 10-pk refills for about $10. I switched to this model to save money, and have been very happy.

    Please, Muri and Flemming, stop the TPCHD from this too-big brother attempt to control people’s lives, and instead ask them to focus they’re time and resources on important things.

  16. Stacy Emerson says:


  17. billyizme says:

    Copied from the proposed regulation, “In addition, there are concerns that the use of electronic smoking devices in public places and places of employment could increase social acceptance of smoking, provide models for unhealthy behavior, and complicate enforcement of the state and local laws governing the smoking of tobacco products in public places.”

    This is all about politically correct social engineering by the nanny state. (county)

  18. Chuck Roast says:

    The thing you people don’t realize is that no matter how much you bitch, piss and moan on these newspaper sites, it won’t make a damn bit of difference. It just goes to show how big your egos are and how ignorant you are

  19. There have been numerous studies confirming the positive impact of tobacco harm reduction through the use of electronic cigarettes. With the exception of one discredited test by the FDA, there is no evidence that either the inhaled vapor or exhaled vapor is dangerous. The anti-smoking fanatics and pharmaceutical companies have been desperately trying to find something wrong with them for over two years now and have come up with NOTHING. To put it simply, they are a much safer alternative to what we know is a killer – tobacco. In the words of Dr. Murray Laugesen of Health New Zealand, “…nicotine is one of the safest of drugs, and is being sold as the alternative to the most dangerous consumer product – the tobacco cigarette.”

    There are important issues that we NEED our government to address. Protecting technology from saving lives is not one of them.

  20. jeremiad says:

    Maybe it is time for those feeling the pinch of “big sis” to go “all Muslim” on these encroachers on our liberties. If we don’t know where they live, we sure could find out and begin picketting them there.

  21. TtownMatt says:

    This is worse than the cigar bar issue the PCHD continues to pursue. When will the government stop trying to protect us,..from ourselves. I think its time we as a county ask for a evaluation and overhaul of our poorly run health gestapo.

  22. slasmith says:

    I think we should just ban public health officials from being in public. This would solve countless problems and save the taxpayers a ton of money.

  23. smcelhiney says:

    I don’t smoke and am another citizen that finds this attempt at regulating something based on the dangers of something completely different to be stupid.

    We need to ban fake smoking to avoid encouraging real smoking? That is the dumbest statement coming from people trying to protect me I’ve heard in a while. Hey, can we ban kids from being outside on cold days? I’ve seen them pretending to smoke using the warm humid air in their lungs… Oh wait I see the problem, we need to ban breathing out in order to stop them from pretend smoking.

  24. DubyaFTW says:

    Next they’re going to ban them in schools!

  25. Geez.. record number of people out there with no health insurance… untreated illnesses, cuts in Health Dept services to new mothers, children, elderly, disabled, support programs gone, etc. etc etc. and an E cigarette is the Health Dept priority here?
    Gosh.. so nice to see what is important to our local leaders……what a joke.
    And the FDA recent decision? Huh.. the same guys who approve the NIcotrol Inhaler as a stop smoking aid? Guess folks have to wait until Phillip Morris or some other big company develops their own brand and can buy off FDA approval.
    Gotta keep those nicotine settlement and tax dollars coming in somehow in the future.. be careful Health Dept. don’t you all also reap the benefit of the tobacco settlement bucks?

  26. Big Tobacco lobbyists at it again.

    FDA doesn’t care about your health, it only cares about who’s making a buck, and who isn’t. The FDA is Big Tobacco’s (and Big Pharma’s) way of ensuring the American public only buys the chemically treated, horrible, deadly crap that they make, and not the healthy stuff that could save your life. God forbid people quit getting cancer!! we’ll lose all those jobs that rely on people dying.

    I used one of these to quit smoking, one of the nicest things is that it doesn’t harm anyone or anything around you, doesn’t stain teeth, doesn’t smell like crap, etc etc. Just plain ol’ nicotine. I smoke at work, right at my machine, at the pub, and in peoples’ cars. It’s just vapor, it’s not hurting anyone.

  27. I have one life to live thank you. I dont give a damn about the FDA, I refuse to go back to and die from tobacco. I refuse to get cancer simply to line your pockets with tax dollars. If I have to order nicotine from research chemical suppliers and mix my own juice, I will. If I have to buy dirt cheap bottom leaf pipe style tobacco and extract the nicotine myself, I will. If I have to process tomatoes (that’s right, they going to outlaw tomatoes? potatoes too…) to extract the nicotine… I will.

    We are talking about Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, Nicotine, and food grade based flavor. 4… count it 4 chemicals. Not 4000+ No smoke. No tar, no formaldehyde, no arsenic, no cyanide, no carbon monoxide, etc.

    I for one am willing to die for this cause because tobacco will end up killing me anyhow. You interfere too much Big Brother, pretending to know what’s best… I see these proposed bans as your attempt to kill me. We both know all you see is dollar signs, health be damned.

  28. PS I guess the “die for the cause” is a little extreme and could be read the wrong way. I guess the proper wording would be fight for the cause? Support CASAA for the cause? Am passionate about the cause?? *sigh* all about the PC these days… it just makes me mad. Let me vape in peace. Do I bother you about bad breath in public? Far more offensive than my vapor.

    I mean really now ;)

    At this rate, how much longer until bumper stickers are illegal? It’s disgusting

  29. Stacy Emerson says:

    Please email the TPCHD Health Board and the elected officials of Pierce County and Tacoma to share your thoughts on this subject. Although it’s likely they are reading these comments, unless they hear from you directly, they can easily claim they have not heard any opposition to their intended ban.

    I will include the entire list at the bottom of my post with names and titles so you’ll know specifically who you’re sending your comments to, but for the convenience of copy/past, here’s the running email list:

    (note – please include your name, address and phone number on your correspondence, and ask to be added to the IPL (Interested Parties List)

    Copy/Paste list:


    Full-info list:

    info@tpchd.org (your message will be forwarded to appropriate staff)
    director@tpchd.org (TPCHD Director, Anthony Chen)
    dmuri@co.pierce.wa.us (Dick Muri, TPCHD Board Chairman/PC Council District 6)
    sflemmi@co.pierce.wa.us (Stan Flemming, MD, TPCHD Vice-chairman/PC Council District 7)
    rtalber@co.pierce.wa.us (Rick Talbert, TPCHD Board Member/PC Council, District 5)
    droach@co.pierce.wa.us (Dan Roach, PC Council District 1)
    jmcdon2@co.pierce.wa.us (Joyce McDonald, PC Council District 2)
    RBUSH@co.pierce.wa.us (Roger Bush, District 3)
    tfarrel@co.pierce.wa.us (Timothy Farrell, PC Council District 4)
    pcexecutive@co.pierce.wa.us (Pat McCarthy, TPCHD Board Member/Pierce County Executive)
    Marilyn.Strickland@cityoftacoma.org (TPCHD Board Member/Tacoma City Mayor)
    Spiro.Manthou@cityoftacoma.org (TC Council Position 1)
    Jake.Fey@cityoftacoma.org (TPCHD Board Member/TC Council Position 2)
    Lauren.Walker@cityoftacoma.org (TC Deputy Mayor, Council Position 3)
    Marty.Campbell@cityoftacoma.org (TC Council Position 4)
    Joe.Lonergan@cityoftacoma.org (TC Council Position 5)
    Victoria.Woodards@cityoftacoma.org (TPCHD Alt. Board Member/TC Council At-Large position 6)
    David.Boe@cityoftacoma.org (TC Council At-large position 7)
    Ryan.Mello@cityoftacoma.org (TC Council At-large position 8)
    eanderso@cityoftacoma.org (Eric Anderson, TC City Manager)
    ron.lucas@ci.steilacoom.wa.us (TPCHD Alt. Board Member/PC Cities & Towns Assoc/Steilacoom Mayor)
    pjohnson@cityofbuckley.com (TPCHD Board Member/Buckley Mayor)

    (note – the only person missing from the list is the TPCHD Board Member-at-large, Dr. Rebecca Sullivan. If anyone happens to have her email address, please share it here.)

    Stacy Emerson

    Here’s what I sent to the list, if interested:

    Dear TPCHD Health Board Members and Elected Officials –

    I am a 47 year old property-owning female taxpayer of unincorporated Pierce County who started smoking in my teenage years; then switched to cigars in my 30’s. I have experience intermittent–perhaps permanent–health problems due to my decades of smoking, yet failed to successfully quit for more than a few weeks at a time.

    I obtained my first e-cigarette last year as a hand-me-down from someone I met through an employee of the TPCHD. The person who gave it to me had successfully broke his 30-year smoking addiction by using the E-cig, and that gave me tremendous hope, as my prior experience with hypnosis, nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and whatever the pill was back in about 2000, before Chantix went on the market, and several other ‘devices’, etc., did not work for me..

    Since then, a convenience store chain started selling full E-cig kits for $20, with 10-pk refills for about $10 (refills for the hand-me-down one was $19.99/5-pk). They are available in a variety of strengths of nicotine, as well as zero-nicotine. I started with the 22mg nicotine cartridges, am happy to report that I am now down to the 5mg cartridges and plan to switch to the zero-nicotine in the near future. I view this as a huge success, and therefore feel I must voice my objection to your intended ban on low-cost e-cigs (unless a particular brand is proven to contain other-than nicotine and glycerin), and on your intended ban on E-cig coupons (you have not banned cigarette coupons, have you?).

    I also object to what appears to be your effort to protect the financial resources you garner through cigarette tax by banning/restricting E-cigs.

    I am asking you to drop this issue and instead focus your time, attention and resources on other, more important issues—as there are PLENTY of them which need your attention.

    In closing, I ask that you add me to your Interested Parties List regarding any meetings or actions relating to your efforts at banning or restricting E-cigs in Pierce County.

    Thank you,

    Stacy Emerson
    XXXX XXth Street East
    Midland (Tacoma), WA 98445

  30. Nate Wells says:

    I say get each member of the County Council to issue an official position statement on e-cigarettes.
    If anybody abstains, or endorses the ban, then “unelect” them next election cycle.
    Pat McCarthy has already made her position known–she wants them banned–she needs to lose her job. Do not re-elect Pat McCarthy.
    Pat–are you listening? I’m gonna be the one holding the sign with your name on it, with a great big red X across it on the next election cycle.

  31. Matt Zuke says:

    “Due to the health hazards that secondhand smoke poses to those exposed, the Board of Health adopts these regulations in order to protect the health and welfare of all citizens, including workers in their places of employment.” — RCW 70.160

    RCW 70.160 was the direct result of hard work and objective scientific evidence that not only does smoking itself pose a health risk, but second hand smoking does as well. There is no such evidence that second hand vapor has any health impact what so ever. Doing nothing would have the benefit of making it legal for those of us who use personal vaporizers (E-cigarettes) promoting a product that actually mimics smoking so closely that the transition is transparent. Doing nothing would permit a viable alternative for those who light up at Point Defiance that DOES NOT STINK. Regulation in public areas would have the negative consequence of having a null affect on the status quo, which is over 100,000 people in Pierce County who risk cancer since domestic cigarettes are the most addictive nicotine delivery devices ever devised.

    RCW 70.160 is very clear. Smoking poses a health hazard, second hand smoking poses a health hazard. E-smoking only looks and feels like smoking, and in doing so addresses an addiction unlike “approved” Nicotine Replacement Products that have a track record of being ineffective.

    My name is Matt Zukowski, and I’ve not had a cigarette in 3 months since purchasing my first personal vaporizer in February.

  32. Eddie Willers says:

    The Nanny State strikes again! Hard at work, restricting your freedoms in the name of ‘public safety’ without stopping to consider the merits of the very thing they wish to forbid.

    It sickens me how the USA is becoming more like a Euro-Socialist sh1thole every day.

  33. TruthinFacts says:

    To ban them in public will reduce the number of smokers willing to give e-cigs a try. With millions of people now saying that they have made the switch who never had success with any other method, can we really let blind fear be our judge in this?

    There is no science to back up lumping them in with cigarettes in these bans, but plenty of evidence to show how little of a danger they pose. A simple google search will get you several. Something these health officials don’t seem capable of doing.

    Ban them for kids? Sure, these are not meant for kids. They are meant for smokers who want something better that will not kill them.

    Ban them in public? That’s silly. They look like cigarettes but they are not. You would be allowing a an based on fear no facts and possibly harming a lot of people with this choice.

  34. Well I know that’s really going to upset My doctor because he told me I’m in such better health since I started using these and stopped smoking. But then Pierce County hasn’t made a decision of their own for along time. If King Co. does it then you can bet their understudy Pierce Co. will too.

  35. Catherine Frey says:

    I was diagnosed with two diseases in May of 2010. It took 3 years for the doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. They told me any treatments that would posssibly help to control my disease wouldd’t work if I did not quit smoking. I also suffered from asthma and severe coughing. Quitting smoking has been the hardest thing for me to quit. I switched to the e-cig in August of 2010. In less than 3 months my coughing disappeared and I have been asthma free for the past 7 months. No more shortness of breath. I even joined a middle aged ladies jazz dance competition group for excercise. I have two doctors working with me and they are both thrilled and “very proud” of me for making the switch. One doctor has even asked me for referrals to sites that sell good e-cigs for a few of her patients that just can’t quit smoking. Why would you want to take all the positive things the e-cig has done for my health away from me? Why would you do that? Your job is to act in our best interest regarding “health”…and nothing more.

  36. BadThad says:

    Do they realize there is NO SMOKE from an ecig? Nothing is being burned so there cannot be smoke, let alone second-hand smoke.

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