Those folks you see puffing out billowing clouds of vapor from their e-cigarettes at the mall, in restaurants and other public places are going to have to find a new place to vape, at least in Spokane County.
A unanimous vote yesterday by the Spokane Regional Health District's Board of Health makes Spokane County the sixth county in the U.S. to ban vaping in public places
, in the same manner as the Washington state law banning smoking in public places
The new county law goes into effect on July 1 of this year and makes using an e-cig in any public place illegal, including all indoor spaces and places of employment. Thus, vaping will be banned in all Spokane County restaurants, movie theaters, on public patios and other outdoor dining or business spaces. Businesses must also update signage to make patrons aware of the vaping ban.
In a press release about the vote, Spokane Regional Health District's Interim Health Officer Joel McCullough says: "E-cigarettes and vaping products release a cloud of chemicals that may be harmful, especially to our most vulnerable."
While widely considered to be a safer alternative to get a nicotine buzz than tobacco products, it's still largely unknown how dangerous or safe
e-cig use really is. Yet, as we wrote in a story last summer about vaping's rise amongst teens
, that notion of being safer — as well as being odorless — than traditional cigarettes is the main driver of e-cigs' popularity.
The SRHD's Board of Health cited concerns that e-cig vapor can contain nicotine, heavy metals, ultrafine particulates and other toxic or cancer-causing agents that makes secondhand exposure a concern, especially among youth, pregnant women and people with chronic illness. That vaping devices can be used to inhale not only nicotine, but marijuana and other synthetic drugs, also led to the board's decision to make a public use ban.
The SRHD hopes the ban helps address the rising use of e-cigs with area high schoolers. While the selling of e-cigs and related products to minors is banned, concerns are that teens who vape could move on to smoking tobacco cigarettes.
The health district will begin enforcement of the new law after July 1. As with smoking in public violations, the public can anonymously report vaping violations online
once the new law goes into effect.