By Bridget Vandeventer, Communications and Community Relations Manager
The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health passed two regulations that will further protect the health of the people of Pierce County from the health risks associated with tobacco use. The vote concludes a month-long public process that sought input from the community regarding the emerging trend of e-cigarette use.
“The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health has a long history of taking an aggressive stance on tobacco in order to protect the residents of our county,” said Dick Muri, Chair of the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health. “We’re pleased to have come to an agreement that balances the protection of Pierce County youth from nicotine while making allowances for adults who are looking for ways to kick a smoking habit.”
The first regulation passed by the Board, “Environmental Health Code, Chapter 8: Smoking in Public Places,” provides greater clarity and interpretation of RCW 70.160, Washington State’s Smoking in Public Places law. The regulation allows for local enforcement of violations to the law including the assessment of fees and fines and aids local businesses that wish to comply with the State law. The second, “Environmental Health Code, Chapter 9: Restrictions on Sale, Use and Availability of Electronic Smoking Devices and Unregulated Nicotine Delivery Products,” is focused on the sale and use of electronic smoking devices, or e-cigarettes. Under the new regulation, the sale of e-cigarettes is prohibited for youth under age 18. Also, e-cigarettes are allowed only in public places where minors are lawfully prohibited, places of employment that are not public places, and retail outlets that exclusively sell or promote electronic smoking devices.
Wednesday’s vote concludes a public process that commenced on May 4, 2011 to collect feedback on the two proposed regulations. Input was received from the public via email, an online form hosted on the Health Department’s website, www.tpchd.org, and through public meetings that took place on May 16 and 18, 2011. The community was actively engaged on the issues, focusing primarily on Chapter 9.
The Board of Health had to weigh the lack of hard data assuring the safety of e-cigarettes to users and bystanders against the compelling anecdotal stories members of the public shared about how e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking. The Board of Health agreed that it was appropriate to regulate e-cigarettes to protect the public from a risk that is not fully quantified. However, the regulation passed today was modified to address the issues raised during the public process.
“We are very pleased at the level of engagement and thoughtful input we received from members of the community,” stated Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, Director of Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “In public health, we often have to make hard decisions to provide appropriate health protection for the whole community. The resolutions passed today strike the right balance for protecting the general public from the dangers of smoking. I applaud the Board of Health members for their thoughtful consideration of these issues.”
The two regulations go into effect on June 2, 2011.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States and is responsible for one in every five deaths annually. In Pierce County, 17% of adults smoke, representing more than 100,000 people in our community. Preventing tobacco use and protecting people from the health threats associated with tobacco remain a top priority for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the health of the communities of Pierce County. As part of its mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.