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Electronic cigarettes likely a smokin’ hot topic at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department meeting at 6 p.m. Monday

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on May 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm with 20 Comments »
May 15, 2011 2:31 pm

Aficionados of electronic cigarettes – which look like the real thing but create a vapor for users to inhale – plan to tell Health Department officials Monday they don’t want their faux smokes virtually banned in Pierce County.

The Tacoma Pierce-County Health Department proposes new regulations that would treat the e-cigarettes like their tobacco-burning cousins. That means no firing up the battery-powered substitutes in restaurants, bars, workplaces or other spots where the public gather.

A public meeting on the issue is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Health Department, 3629 S. D St., Tacoma. The Board of Health is not set to take action on the regulations immediately, but a vote could take place next month.

You can read my previous story on the issue here.

Electronic cigarette users like Kim Thompson, owner of The Vaporium in Lakewood, say they’re a great bridge for people trying to quit the nicotine habit. She’s never met a nonsmoker who wanted to buy them, she told The News Tribune earlier this month.

The e-cigarettes use a liquid containing nicotine and an atomizer to give users a bit of the addictive substance as they try to step down from it, Thompson says. They draw on the e-cigarettes as they would a tobacco product, then exhale the vapor. Users don’t call it smoking, they say they’re “vaping.”

The e-smokes also can satisfy the oral cravings and the hand-to-mount habit associated with smoking, says Dick Muri, a Pierce County Council member who chairs the Health Department’s board. Both Muri and Thompson say they think sale of the e-cigarettes should be banned to minors – as the Health Department proposes – but they think the rest of the proposed regulations go too far.

Health Department director Dr. Anthony Chen says the chemicals in e-cigarettes, which use nicotine in liquid form, can be harmful to those who smoke them and those who inhale their vapor. In addition, some health officials worry their use glamorizes smoking for young people. They also contend it could be hard for smokers of tobacco cigarettes and others to know if it’s OK to light up indoors if someone next to them is vaping.

There is disagreement among board members. Muri and Stan Flemming, a Pierce County Council member who’s also a physician, think the regulations need work. There’s not enough information to back a ban on their use in public places, Flemming told The News Tribune this month.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, also a board member, believes they’re too much like real cigarettes to allow their use in public spaces.

Another regulation under consideration by the department would make it easier to enforce state law on smoking and to collect fines and fees for inspection of premises where violations occur.

Here’s a copy of the Health Department’s news release on the issue:

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, followed by 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

Leave a comment Comments → 20
  1. Starting off your press release about a product that does not create smoke with info about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

    Stay classy Dr. Chen. I hope the other members of the Board of Health are influenced by Mr. Mury and Mr. Thompson.

  2. darlean says:

    I would like to see the studies that say the vapors from the electric cigarette hurt those around the smoker. My gut instinct is telling me that this isn’t about health issues but about ambiance issues.

  3. Somthing else people think they need to tell other people what to do with. Give it a rest go baby-sit your kids and worry about yourself

  4. It is very difficult to discern the difference between the electronic cigarettes and the real ones when you’re in the same room. I’m afraid it’s going to blur the line, and make other people think it’s alright to light up. One of the biggest problems is the perception of ‘cool’ that smoking has placed on easily influenced teens. I saw three teens yesterday talking about the differences between menthol and regular cigarettes, and which one was ‘cooler’. Feeding a person’s addiction is NOT the responsibility of the health department. Smoking is deadly and costly to all of us. I support a regulation.

  5. “Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, also a board member, believes they’re too much like real cigarettes to allow their use in public spaces.”

    They don’t produce smoke, there’s no chance of inhaling second hand smoke, yet she wants to limit people’s right to use them?

    A vague unsettling feeling and a desire to manipulate public attitudes is now enough to limit a citizen’s freedom? Good lord.

  6. bullman120 says:

    get rid of all cigarettes, the real ones, and the fake ones!

  7. Crystal says:

    So.. car exhaust is bad.. we should ban that too. Really? Most are using this device to quit and yet another law is being mad to limit resources. Honestly, could law makers spend take dollars a little more wisely dince they haven’t yet in all the special session they have had in balancing budgets and focusing on healthcare and preventative medicine programs. This might actually lower the occurance of smoking related issues…

  8. Lets get rid of the real hazard to our health the automobile it kills more people than cigarettes.

  9. Mr Chen and Ms McCarthy are way over stepping their bounds and authority. There is aboslutly no evidence of any danger to others in the public, yet they now wish to control social physchy and norms with non-exsisten dangers. They wish to creat a public outcry to push agenda not for actual health issues, but political gain and in a very disingenious way to mask any real truth. We as the Public have already put up with it in the Bush years and no more!

  10. Wow, They care so much about the public health that my kids were turned away when asking for a swine flu shot last year.

  11. Russ Scharpp says:

    It’s the taxes that they care about nothing else. I smoked for 47 years and finally got an e-ciggerett and now for 5 months haven’t smoked. I tried the nicotine gum, patches all nothing worked. Now that something does they want to stop it. The goverments say they are nicotine delivery devices but i ask what then is the patch, gum ect.
    You can see out the windows of my house and i have removed the fan in the window. The tar is gone. I am back to working in the yard. My wife says she no longer smell like a cigerette beceause of my habbit. I introduced one to another person and he has had the same response from his family.
    It’s taxes they want not health for people.

  12. I don’t smoke, but I have an idea. Can’t they just make a device that does the same function that does not look like a cigarette? Maybe have them look like a stick of celery or a carrot (might glamorize eating healthy) I bet there would still be a ban for people using a legal product. This debate is not about second hand smoke, it’s about controlling people’s behavior, period.

  13. I find it interesting that the University of Washington School of Public Health claims to be recognized worldwide for it’s collective strengths in public health research yet Dr Chen is making no steps to back his claims. It is also HIGHLY disappointing that Dr Chen is riding on the coat-tails of outdated and false reports rather than standing behind the bylaws and goals of his OWN department – and I quote: “this University prides itself on creating an environment that promotes interdisciplinary teaching and research. The University of Washington consistently ranks in the top 2 or 3 Universities in the nation in acquisition of federal research dollars. This success is due in large part to the quality of our faculty, and the intellectual and administrative environment.”

    Unfortunately for the consumers in the greater Tacoma area, his supposed status at UW has allowed him to poison the minds and outcome of this decision with both the Health Department and the great legislators of Washington state.

    The School of Public Health receives tremendous volumes of taxpayer money and rather than to use the money to do REAL research to prove his report, he would rather simply state what has already been proven to be politically motivated rhetoric than to do a real study of his own. Dr Chen, I CHALLENGE you to be a REAL medical professional and a MAN by doing your own study to back up your findings. LOOK at the data provided, draw on your extensive medical and scientific background and open your eyes to the possibility that a tremendous amount of good comes from this product. If you are not open to the possibility, your tenure at UW should be put into question and the medical board should review your licensing.

  14. I think everyone who is opposed to this regulation should show up and “smoke” these things in the meeting. (I am not a user, BTW, but what a show that would be!)

  15. Idiots

  16. Claiming that indoor use of e-cigarettes will cause smokers to light up the real thing is a fool’s argument and just a distraction.

    Would smokers really suddenly believe that the smoking ban has been lifted and they didn’t hear about it and start lighting up because they see someone using an e-cigarette? Think about it. If someone from out of town started smoking a real cigarette, would local smokers suddenly light up or would they take a second look and/or ask the manager/staff if it was OK to smoke?

    Simple solution – post signs stating that smoking is prohibited but e-cigarettes are allowed. These signs already exist – you can get them for free at casaa.org.

    A cigarette-looking e-cigarette may look similar at first glance, but a second look quickly distinguishes the two. First of all, there would be no cigarette SMELL, which is usually the first tip off to most people that someone is smoking. Second, there is no sidestream smoke (smoke coming off the burning end of a cigarette). Third, the cigarette never burns down to a butt and there are no ashes and no ashtray. Once they see the whole cigarette get puffed on and then set down on the table without being extinguished or placed in an ashtray, it’s obvious it’s not a real cigarette! Finally, if the Health Department would make it publically known that it’s ok to use e-cigarettes, the public would be informed and KNOW that someone using an e-cigarette was NOT smoking. Anyone who still doesn’t get it and lights up would be quickly told by the staff or management that smoking isn’t permitted.

    Additionally, most avid e-cigarette consumers use e-cigarettes which do NOT look anything like traditional cigarettes. They are black, blue, pink, silver, etc. Have red, blue, purple, green LED ends (or none at all.) And some are even square and box-shaped. The kind you see in news reports are for new users and quickly get discarded for better models. Smokers figure out that what they LOOK like doesn’t matter and get into how well they work. After that, the sky is the limit for various non-cigarette-looking models. many purposely buy models which look nothing like a cigarette to remove themselves even further from real smoking. My e-cigarette is black, about as thick as a mini flashlight and only glows from the blue LED switch on the SIDE of the device. You’d have to be pretty drunk to confuse it with a real cigarette!

    So, the claim that e-cigarettes would confuse people is a complete smoke screen (no pun intended.)

    And to the commentor who pointed out the teens who think smoking is “cool” – you made the point for e-cigarettes. Teens think SMOKING is cool, not using a dorky e-cigarette that “old people” (anyone over 30) use to avoid smoking. There is nothing “cool” about them, especially since they cost a lot upfront, are a pain to maintain and real cigarettes are much easier to get and more affordable upfront. The whole “kids will buy these” argument is just another scarecrow argument meant to distract from real issue – which is e-cigarettes are being widely reported by consumers as working for them and not causing them harm in any way. So, of course the antis need to resort to ridiculous arguments to get these banned – they have no other justification.

    Then there’s the “it encourages/glamorizes smoking” excuse. Bull! If a kid asks, “Mommy, why is that man smoking in here?” Mommy just tells him – “They aren’t smoking, dear, they are using an e-cigarette. That is meant to help people NOT to smoke. It’s a good thing!”

    Problem solved.

    E-cigarettes do not promote or glamorize smoking anymore than non-alcoholic beer glamorizes or promotes drinking.

    God forbid “smokers” should be seen as enjoying themselves all while NOT harming themselves or anyone around them!

  17. rothenbj says:

    The results of this decision will have little effect on me one way or the other since my business traveling days are over and I shall only travel to Washington if vacation plans take me there.

    However, after kicking a 2-3 pack a day 43 year habit with the use of E Cigs and Snus, I felt it necessary to add my comment. Yes, I’m an expert on quiting since I probably did close to two dozen times in my smoking days. Spent lots of money on FDA approved products, herbal remedies and hypnosis only to find after a couple months that the urge to smoke returned and back on the roller coaster. I even gave up trying to quit until my girlfriend talked me into buying an E Cig. That led to 16 months with a drag on a cigarette and no desire to do so.

    There is a mounting body of evidence that the vapor is safe, both to the user and to those around them. There is no evidence to the contrary. Plus there is strong evidence that smoking is harmful to the smoker. This is a no brainer.

    Had not the ?non-profit?”health” associations not stepped in to protect their sponsors, the Pharma industry there would be no controversy. It’s all about the money. If the health department wants to do the right thing for all its constituents they will remove this section of their proposal from consideration.

  18. There is absolutely no justification for including a product that does not produce smoke in a smoking ban. Over 90% of e-cigarette users report that there health has IMPROVED since they began replacing multiple packs of combustible cigarettes with less than a teaspoon of liquid (comprised entirely of ingredients approved by the FDA for human consumption) to create a water-based vapor.

    E-cigarettes are not particularly appealing to young smokers who believe they can quit at will. Smoke-free alternatives are really only attractive to inveterate smokers who have repeatedly tried to quit without long term success and find themselves unable or unwilling to stop smoking, even while 8.6 MILLION smokers suffer from chronic illnesses that may be caused or worsened by continuing to smoke.

    If we speculate that that advantages of switching to smoke-free e-cigarettes might attract underage users, there is no reason to think that a never-smoker would choose to include the optional nicotine in their vaporizer. If we further speculate that a theoretical never-smoker chose to use nicotine, studies on pharmaceutical NRTs (containing nicotine derived from the same tobacco sources as e-cigarettes) show that nicotine apart from the habit reinforcing effects of MAO inhibitors in tobacco and smoke is not likely to create an addiction. If we speculate further still and assume that a never-smoker would choose to use and somehow develop a dependence on pleasantly flavored nicotine vapor from e-cigs, there is STILL no reason to expect them to crave the taste of burnt tobacco.

    The hazards and byproducts of combustion are the root cause of at least 99% of all the known risks of tobacco use. That means that even if every person on the planet started using e-cigarettes, the “net harm” to public health would be surpassed by the benefits of just 10% of current smokers switching to a smoke-free alternative.

  19. J Coffey says:

    E-Cigs won’t cause children to start smoking,it is smokers that switch due to health and cost reasons and when something comes along that is a safer alternative the

    Funny that commericals and movies of drinking and always having a great time when you did is what got me drinking at a young age.
    If they were so worried about young people then they would have banned Alcohol advertising long ago.

    The “if it looks like a cigarette then it must be treated as one” is lame,then maybe we should require registration with cap guns and Barbie cars.

    Recent American tests HAVE been done on the E-Cig and its second hand vapor and was shown to be the same as a Nicitrol Inhaler or Nicotine Gum and in some cases E-Cigs had lower traces than current NRTs.

  20. So what happened at the meeting?

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