King County health panel stamps out e-cigarettes
January 18, 2011
King County Board of Health members restricted sales and use of electronic cigarettes last month.
The e-cigarette is a battery-powered device designed to deliver a nicotine-based and flavored liquid vapor.
The board voted unanimously to restrict the sales of e-cigarettes or any other unapproved nicotine delivery devices only to people 18 and older. The board prohibited free or highly discounted electronic smoking devices or unapproved nicotine delivery products. The use of e-cigarette devices in places where smoking is prohibited by law is also banned.
“I am pleased that the Board of Health acted today to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to youth and to restrict their use in public spaces,” Board of Health Chairwoman Julia Patterson, a county councilwoman, said in a statement. “E-cigarettes are used as a means to encourage people, especially our youth, to begin smoking. Their safety and long-term health impacts are untested and unknown.”
The e-cigarettes carry a special appeal to youth. They are sold in convenience stores and mall kiosks and come in candy flavors, including chocolate, vanilla and mint.
“The Board of Health’s responsibility is to create policies that foster the health and well being of our community, and today’s action will help achieve that objective,” Patterson said.
The federal Food & Drug Administration is investigating e-cigarettes, but the products remain unregulated at the federal level.
“This Board of Health proposal is a reasonable step to protect youth immediately in King County while federal authorities continue to look into these products,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in the statement. “Through this regulation, young people in King County have one less opportunity to get hooked on nicotine.”
The federal government has warned e-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead youth to try conventional tobacco products.
“The Board of Health’s action will help protect our youth from the addictive effects of nicotine,” Dr. Bud Nicola, a board member, said in a statement.
The devices mimic the appearance of regular cigarettes, because the user exhales a smoke-like vapor similar in appearance to the exhaled smoke from a cigarette.
The use is almost indistinguishable from the use of traditional tobacco products in public, causing the potential for confusion for people who use traditional tobacco products.
“No matter how it’s delivered, nicotine is highly addictive,” board member and Lake Forest Park Mayor David Hutchinson said in the statement. “We took an important step today to keep these unknown products out of the hands of kids in King County.”
The board convened a tobacco policy committee in June 2010 to review the evidence and develop tobacco policies to respond to current policy opportunities and disparities in King County.
Though several other jurisdictions nationwide have created e-cigarette regulations, King County’s are believed to be the most comprehensive in the United States.
The board sets countywide public health policy, enacts and enforces local public health regulations, and carries out other duties of local boards of health specified in state law.