PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Health adopted a ban on vaping, combining it with existing policy on smoking in public places.
The board repealed its clean indoor air ordinance Thursday and replaced it with a new chapter following a public hearing at the county health department, 615 Sheridan St.
It went into effect immediately.
“The current ordinance prohibits smoking in public places and places of employment, and within 25 feet of doors, windows and air intakes,” Community Health Educator Karen Obermeyer said.
Obermeyer said the vaping ban also includes outdoor places where children congregate.
“Vapor is an aerosol that can leave behind a chemical residue,” she said. She said that nationwide reports of severe lung disease and other ailments related to vaping are of “epidemic proportions.”
Jefferson became the 13th county in Washington state to adopt a ban on vaping, Obermeyer said.
Public Health Officer Tom Locke said the health issues some are experiencing aren’t so much related to nicotine but the other ingredients within the vaping products.
“It’s kind of a Wild West situation with completely unregulated products,” he said. “Different chemicals from all over the world are combined in these things.”
He cautioned against people using them.
“Things can be lethal if you vaporize them and put them into your lungs,” Locke said.
“It’s a very effective way of getting drugs quickly into your brain. The kinds involved are comparable to [intravenous] drug use, and that’s one of the factors that makes it so addictive.”
Obermeyer said the ordinance does not specify ingredients such as individual juice products or the potential for THC, the active chemical in marijuana.
Instead, she said the ordinance remains substance neutral.
The vaping ban combines with the existing ban on indoor smoking, a state law adopted in 2006. The outdoor regulations include bans on both products in places children gather, such as playgrounds, parks, beaches, athletic fields or stadiums.
The ordinance does allow “tasting” to occur inside licensed retail facilities for those 18 and older. State law will have a new age restriction of 21 beginning Jan. 1.
“While the board of health agrees that consenting adults have the right to choose for themselves what legal activities to engage in, and what legal chemicals to ingest or inhale, the board of health also recognizes that its paramount responsibility is to protect the public health,” the resolution stated.
It also cites a Jefferson County self-report study that shows vaping among youth on the rise with an increase of 157 percent between 2016-18.
The data showed 38 percent of high school sophomores and seniors combined reported past 30-day use of e-cigarettes or vape pens. In 2018, the study showed 8.7 percent of 10th-graders in the county reporting the used THC in their e-cigarettes.
“There is strong concern that the lack of regulations prohibiting the use of vapor products in public places sends a mixed message to youth, may renormalize the use of nicotine, and, hence, increase nicotine addiction in those most vulnerable,” the resolution stated.
Signs that state “no vaping” and “no smoking” will be required at each entrance to a public building and at appropriate outdoor public places.
The ordinance authorizes the county health officer and the public health department to notify, inspect and enforce the prohibition, with a focus on education, warnings and a chance to correct a violation before other actions, which could include fines.
A daily monetary penalty could be assessed at $100 for a first violation, $250 for a second violation and $500 for any subsequent violation.
Clallam County has a smoking ordinace that regulates vaping.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].