PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Health is recommending an amendment to the county’s Clean Indoor Air Regulation prohibiting e-cigarettes and vapor products from indoor public places and places of employment.
The board cited increased use of e-cigarettes and vapor products, especially among youth, when taking the action Thursday.
Additionally, vaping would not be allowed within 25 feet of doors, windows and air vents, similar to the rules for other tobacco products.
The county’s draft ordinance allows an exception for those places licensed by the state of Washington as a vapor product retailer. According to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, currently Jefferson County has 16 vapor product retailers.
Six health board members unanimously agreed to regulate vaping and asked staff to proceed with prepared edits to the proposed regulations to include no vaping in public claces for possible approval in June. County Commissioner Kate Dean was in Washington, D.C., and was not available for the vote.
A public hearing will follow later next month that will ask the community for testimony before considering finalizing the ordinance.
If approved, the “no vaping” language would be added to existing “no smoking” signage that property owners are required to post, and a pubic relations campaign would be created to spread the word about the new law. Funding for both signage and the program is available from the Centers for Disease Control and the state tobacco tax, according to the Board of Health.
“We are not getting out in front of this, we are behind other local health jurisdictions,” said Stuart Whitford, environmental health division director.
“There is enough science to suggest that this aerosol is problematic as a second-hand issue.”
County Public Health Educator Karen Obermeyer said 37 percent of Jefferson County 10th graders report current e-cigarette or vapor product use, according to a 2018 Healthy Youth Survey.
“Although the vast majority of teens in Jefferson County do not vape, the drastic increase in the use of vapor products among youth is concerning,” she said.
The state Department of Health reports that four times as many 10th graders reported vaping (21 percent) than smoking cigarettes (5 percent), and only about one-third of all Washington state 10th graders surveyed thought vaping was harmful.
“Young people who discount the health risks of vaping products are ignoring the serious risks of nicotine addiction,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
“Like other addictive drugs, nicotine produces a physical dependence and users experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop,” he added.
“The longer this goes on, the harder it is to control the use of the drug. Once the brain becomes addicted to a drug like nicotine, it can cause a lifelong problem. The best way to prevent nicotine addiction is to never start using it in the first place.”
Studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration show that vapor products release fine and ultrafine particles of solvents, flavoring and chemical by-products produced in the heating process that can include carcinogens, heavy metals like tin and lead, and other hazardous chemicals.
Nicotine, one of the main chemical components of most e-liquid solutions, is a highly addictive and toxic chemical, studies say.
The Board of Health also may consider an ordinance later this year that restricts vaping use in outdoor public places.
Currently 11 of the state’s 39 counties have passed regulations against vaping in public places under their authority to protect public health. Clallam County adopted an ordinance that prohibits vaping in county workplaces as well as in parks and on trails.
“Skagit County just passed the ordinance making it the 11th local county to do so,” Obermeyer said. “Perhaps we can be the 12th.”
Parents can find resources about Tips for Talking to you Teen about vapor products on the Jefferson County public health website at www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org.
Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]