Jefferson County health department eyes ban on vaping in public places

Prohibition would align with state law on smoking

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Public Health is considering a ban on vaping in public places similar to the current state prohibition on smoking.

The board voted to accept proposed changes on Thursday and plans to hold a public hearing on the ordinance at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the county health department, 615 Sheridan St. in Port Townsend.

The ordinance would go into effect immediately if it’s passed, possibly at its October meeting.

Community Health Educator Karen Obermeyer presented the ordinance with comments from Philip Hunsucker, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

Obermeyer said the goal is to align disparities between the state vapor law and the state tobacco law.

The current ordinance, known as the county’s Clean Air Act, complies only with the state tobacco law, she said.

“This updated process prohibits vaping indoors with only ‘tasting’ in licensed retail operations as exceptions,” Obermeyer said.

Hunsucker recommended a repeal of the current ordinance so the county can replace it with the updated version that includes vaping. The original act was adopted in 2006.

The proposal cites a study saying the use of vapor products by students in 10th through 12th grades countywide has increased 157 percent between 2016-18.

It also says 38 percent of those students reported past 30-day use of e-cigarettes or vape pens, and nearly 9 percent of 10th-graders in the county reported using THC — the active chemical in marijuana — in their e-cigarettes.

“Eleven other local boards of health and other cities in Washington state have adopted ordinances to restrict vaping in public places and places of employment similarly to where smoking is prohibited,” the proposal states.

Health board members wrestled with language that deals with outdoor locations and didn’t want to narrow the scope of areas where tobacco already is prohibited.

“The driver for tobacco was occupational exposure,” Health Officer Tom Locke said. “The driver for vaping is where children are present.”

The ordinance would prohibit vaping any substances in any indoor public place and any place of employment where smoking is already prohibited. Vaping also would be banned within 25 feet of doors, windows and ventilation intakes of those buildings.

It would allow tastings at retail locations where patrons have to be at least 18 to enter. They would be restricted to 21 and older as of Jan. 1, 2020, according to state law.

“No vaping” signs would be required at each entrance to a public building. The signs could be combined with those that already say “no smoking.” It also would require those signs at appropriate outdoor public places.

The ordinance would authorize the county health officer and the public health department to notify, inspect and enforce the prohibition, with a focus on education and 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.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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