To vape, or not to vape — in public — that is the question. Amidst the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes and vaping, and rising ambiguity by business owners on whether it’s allowed in their establishments, the Snohomish Health District is evaluating options to prohibit vaping and vapor products in public places.
E-cigarettes and vaping products are not regulated the same way cigarettes are. This leads to public health concerns about potential exposure to the unknown mixture of chemicals in the vapor, as well as the rise in teens and young adults using this new type of addictive nicotine product.
“This is not about telling someone what they can and can’t do in private,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director of the Snohomish Health District. “Instead, this is part of our role in public health to make sure the most vulnerable are protected. This includes our youth, pregnant women, and those with compromised health. That is our primary concern.”
The Smoking in Public Places Law was passed in 2005, making Washington the 10th state in the country to implement a law prohibiting smoking in all restaurants and bars, as well as the fifth state to require that 100 percent of all indoor workplaces be smoke-free. In January 2015, the Health District created Chapter 13 of the local code, which clarified places of employment and that the law applied to marijuana and hookah smoking, as well as to cigarettes.
“This review of vaping will help the Board of Health better understand the issues as it considers incorporating vaping into the smoking in public places law,” Goldbaum said. “We have been following the rapid increase in vaping, particularly among our youth, and we believe now is the right time to address use in public places.”
At the June 9 board meeting, staff presented a brief update and a recommended timeframe for continuing to evaluate the issue. The board endorsed the schedule and agreed to form a subcommittee, starting with its first meeting on July 1.
“This first meeting is really to allow our subcommittee the chance to dig into the details of vaping and vapor products, and to ask questions of staff,” said Heather Thomas, communications and public affairs officer for the Health District. “We also want to engage the community in this process over the next few months to ensure any changes to our local code are done with the health and well-being of Snohomish County residents in mind.”
- The first subcommittee meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1 in the Snohomish Health District’s Auditorium at 3020 Rucker Ave., Everett. The meeting is open to the public, but no comment will be taken at this initial meeting.
- Following the first meeting, a preliminary comment period will be open from July 6-31. There will be a series of 4-5 questions that the community will be asked to respond to via either email, online survey or mailed in responses. Details for the comment period will be released closer to the opening date.
- A second meeting will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21 at a location to be announced later. This will be a public listening session where the subcommittee hears feedback from the community on the issue.
- The subcommittee will reconvene in mid-August to review the comments received, and a recommendation for next steps is expected to be presented to the full board in September.
A webpage has been created for this process, and the public is encouraged to visit https://www.snohd.org/Healthy-Living/Smoke-Free-Living/Vaping-Vapor-Products. This page will be kept updated with details for the meetings and comment period, as well as links to resources and educational materials.